The Father English Community Center, not unlike many similarly-focused centers in America's impoverished, urban centers, provides its surrounding communities with many services and programs including: continuing education and language courses; a full-day pre-K program, a wide variety of social services; clothing and furniture; and a food shelter.
Carlos runs the food pantry. He is an inspiration. He has made it his life's work to build and maintain a food pantry that provides for 1000 people per month. This food pantry is unique. Typical pantries function like a cafeteria line; the person in need of food walks up to a counter and is given a supply of goods, usually differentiated to specific family needs (i.e. young children). Over the years Carlos has created a pantry that looks more like a grocery store. Visitors walk up and down aisles and using a point system pick up products that suit their family's needs and tastes. It is an innovative concept that values both dignity and compassion.
After visiting with Carlos I couldn't stop thinking about the extraordinary work that he was doing and how I, representing a community that is more than willing to act, can help. I was expecting Carlos to tell me to bring more canned goods, or provide assistance stocking shelves or giving out food. Rather, Carlos simply told me to do what I can to support the Community Food Bank of New Jersey. The Food Bank is where Carlos orders most of the food that is given to the customers, a term preferred by Carlos, of the pantry. The Food Bank provides pantries with a wide variety of goods at significant discounts.
So when our school's National Junior Honor Society was considering a benefactor of our annual Student-Faculty Charity Basketball Game the Food Bank was the overwhelming favorite. Our students raised over $1700 for the event, all of it going to the Food Bank. I can't wait to tell Carlos.
Service is a topic that I have written about in previous posts. I think the concept of helping others, taking care of each other, is an essential understanding that all students need to develop. To help foster this understanding we need to provide opportunities to serve others and to recognize those that lead by example, like Carlos. And, like Marirose.
For the past three years Marirose, a student at SMS, has helped organize a separate toy drive for a group called Tilly's Kids. Marirose, along with a group of other civic-minded and gracious students, deliver the toys to students at their schools in Newark. For many of these students, the toys, games and books they receive may be the only gifts they gift during the holidays. As a nominee for the 2014 Prudential Spirit of Community Award, Marirose received the following letter:
Doug Layman is entering his fourth year as principal of Sparta Middle School. He was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, and he vividly remembers his days at Valley Forge Middle School. Mr. Layman resides in Sparta and enjoys taking advantage of the many outdoor pursuits and activities that make Sparta a great place to work and live.
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