WESTFIELD, NJ – On any given day throughout the school year, in any of the 10 schools in the Westfield Public School District, there are coat drives and food drives and collections of everyday items for communities in need.
There are Two Lunch Thursdays and Extra Lunch Wednesdays, where students bring an extra lunch and meet to make sandwiches, donating the lunches and sandwiches to food pantries and homeless shelters. There are dance-a-thons and math-a-thons and many other initiatives to raise money for pediatric cancer research and other charitable causes.
And whether observing Kindness Month or taking The Great Kindness Challenge or encouraging Random Acts of Kindness, there’s a common theme taking place this month and last across the district.
“You are ambassadors of kindness and respect,” said Wilson School Principal Joseph Malanga at the closing ceremony for the Month of Hope on Feb. 1, where he recognized 20 students he had quietly observed doing something kind. Each week during the Month of Hope in January, Wilson students, parents, and staff focused on a particular need, collecting gently used sports equipment one week, non-perishable food items another, making sandwiches for St. Joseph Social Service Center in Elizabeth, gathering pet food and treats for abandoned animals at the Linden Animal Shelter, and raising $11,696 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Fourth-graders in Branice Moore’s class at McKinley were Soup-er Bowl champions, collecting 388 non-perishable food items while the entire school community collected 3,465 food items – on average 10 items per student – for a local food pantry.
“McKinley loves participating in this food drive because we get to help others,” says the school’s principal, Marc Biunno.
Jefferson School kicked off The Great Kindness Challenge with an assembly focusing on the 6 Pillars of Character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. At Franklin School, which has participated in the kindness challenge for the past several years, second graders created themed baskets for Westfield’s first responders and other public service providers as part of grade level kindness activities.
Tamaques School teachers are conducting individual lessons on kindness as the school prepares to kick off its 2019 Reading Marathon this month, having raised $17,046 last year for families in need. Washington School and others are celebrating the 100th day of school by partnering with volunteers at “Connect for Community,” a program created to demonstrate to children what 100 cents can buy.
“The basic premise of the program is asking each child to bring in one personal hygiene product that we use every day,” says Washington School Principal Andrew Perry. “Many of these items, such as soap, toothpaste, deodorant, dishwashing liquid and toilet paper, are not covered by government assistance programs yet are necessities in life.”
The Good Vibes Tribe at Edison Intermediate School recently made 1,000 origami peace cranes for Children’s Specialized Hospital while visitors to Roosevelt Intermediate School were greeted by a large bulletin board declaring such Random Acts of Kindness as “invite someone new to sit at your lunch table,” “give a classmate a pencil or pen,” and “let someone go ahead of you in line.” Members of the RIS Looming our Love (LOL) Club met to loom and knit caps for babies and adults in cancer units at Valley Hospital in Ridgewood.
“The club made a goal to donate 200 hats this year and we’ve already made over 120,” said LOL Club advisor Carine Helwig in mid-January.
The Community Service Club, Baking a Difference, Operation Smile and other service-oriented clubs at Westfield High School raise money and awareness year-round.
“It is impossible to name every community service effort, every act of kindness, every demonstration of good character taking place in our schools,” says Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan. “We are truly fortunate to have students, parents, and staff who believe strongly in making a difference.”
In March, Westfield Public Schools will observe its 2nd Annual Community Service Day, a district-wide coordinated effort organized by school Parent Teacher Organizations, where families take part in planned activities in support of homeless shelters, fighting hunger campaigns, senior citizens, rescue animal organizations and others in need of charitable help.