By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI
The owners of a Main Street bar in Asbury Park are showing the community what it truly means in the words of Charles Dickens to “keep Christmas well.”
John McGillion, owner of Johnny Mac House of Spirits, and his wife Mary Christine are spending the weeks up until Christmas Day, not hoarding their money like Scrooge, but spending it.
And not on themselves but on the children of Asbury Park.
The largest donation the couple made was $10,000 to the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County’s summer program in Asbury Park.
They have also been shopping for $100 gift cards to Target and other stores, to be given to all the children at Our Lady Mt. Carmel School.
McGillion will be giving out the gift cards to the 196 students at Mt. Carmel on Friday at 11 a.m. and another 189 gift cards to the kids who attend programs at the Boys and Girls Club at 5:30 p.m.
“It’s about $53,000 all together,” McGillion said. “I just wanted to see them for Christmas, every kid likes Christmas.”
McGillion has never done anything like this in the past but said, “I had a few dollars laying around this year and I just felt like doing it – it’s exciting, it gives me a lot of pleasure.”
McGillion said school officials were very happy to see their students receive the early Christmas gift.
Mary McGillion, according to John, is the one who purchased the gift cards.
“She loves the idea,” he said.
McGillion, who purchased his bar in 2005 but did not open it until 2010, also said he gave $5200 to the nuns at Sisters Academy a month ago.
“I did that because there are 52 girls at the school,” he said.
But when he decided to continue giving he was advised not to give cash to the children.
He said the Target gift cards were Mary’s idea because the kids would be able to choose to buy clothes or other items.
Mayor John Moor praised McGillion, who wanted to keep the donations quiet, and urged him to go public with his generosity.
Moor said he told McGillion that after all the criticism thrown his way regarding Johnny Mac, he should let the city know the good things he does.
McGillion recalled that when he first moved to Asbury Park “it was not in the best condition, it kind of excited me to do something.”
This Christmas season, that something is going to make a lot of children very happy.