NORTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Throughout the year, one of the goals of the Giving Nest Preschool and Kindergarten is to nurture children and teach them the importance of giving back and helping others.

“Even though our students are only between the ages of 2 and 6 we want them to know that they have so much to give to others – a smile, a kind word, a big hug, an amazing picture and much more,” said Mary Sue Frank, who, along with Debbie Hannon, founded the Giving Nest Preschool 25 years ago.

This message especially rings true at the Giving Nest during the holidays.

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“Every December, the children hear a story entitled The Gift of Giving. The story is about families that love their children very much but they are very poor. They want to buy new clothes and toys for their children but they don’t have the money,” said Frank.

Reading The Gift of Giving to Giving Nest students each year, said Frank, is now a 25-year tradition.

“Each year, our children hear about these families and they decide that they will do chores at home to earn $2,” said Frank. “I stress that, to make this happen, we have to work together.  Two dollars is not enough money to buy clothes and toys but if we put our money together we can make dreams come true.”

This year, the children from the Giving Nests’ North Plainfield, Bridgewater, Warren and Martinsville schools raised $969.75, which was used to purchase a variety of gifts, including clothing, toys and other items, for the three families, which include a single-mom with children, a 15-year-old boy and three girls, ages 14, 8 and 6; a mom and dad (dad recently had a stroke) with four boys ages 17, 15, 10 and 7; and a mom raising two boys, ages 9 and 10, and a girl, age 7. Frank bought $487.48 worth of gifts at Target, $120.83 at Kreations by Ann and $13.81 at Toys R Us as well as $347.63 at ShopRite.

“From the bottom of our hearts we express our deepest gratitude. The children have given the greatest gift of all – the ‘gift of giving,’” said Frank.

During a recent morning Community Sing at the North Plainfield school, Frank showed the children all the things she was able to purchase because of their generosity.

“I begin by asking questions to help the children understand and be aware of all the things they have and possibly take for granted,” she said. “For instance, I ask what they wear when they go out on a cold winter morning. Hands are eagerly raised and they tell me they put on their coats, hats, scarves, boots, and mittens.”

She continued, “Then I hold up the coats, hats and mittens I purchased for each child and tell them that because of them, these children now have their very own warm coat, hat and mittens. I explain that before they had to wear hand-me-downs from older siblings, friends or cousins.” 

Frank also asks the students what they use to cover themselves with in bed on a cold, winter night.

“Again, hands are raised and shouts of ‘my sheet,’ my quilt,’ ‘my blanket’ are heard," she said. "I hold up the blankets I purchased for each child and adult and say ‘because of you these children and adults will go to bed and be able to cover themselves with these warm, soft and cuddly blankets. Before these families would be cold in bed or they would have to share a blanket.”

Last year, the Baroi family was among the families the Giving Nest helped and, this year, siblings Diantha, 10, and Darvin, 8, paid it forward, sending in their own $10 donation from money they earned doing such chores as dishes, cooking dinner and tiding up.  

“Last year, you gave us the stuff we wanted for Christmas. We were so happy. Thank you for making that Christmas memorable,” Diantha and Darvin said in a letter to the Giving Nest. “This year, we want you to take our chore money. Then, you can give some kids the stuff they want. They'll be happy like us.”

In addition to displaying the items purchased for the families during Community Sing, Frank also put them on display at this year’s Family Holiday Sing, which took place on Dec. 12. The annual event featured holiday songs and a special visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, an Elf and Rudolph’s friend Shiloh the Great Dane. Children also had the opportunity to have their photos taken with Santa, Elsa and Olaf, enjoy refreshments, listen to holiday stories read by North Plainfield teacher Jill Presley and draw pictures.

“This event is a family favorite! During a busy time of year, it allows families to just be together for an hour!  As we sing holiday songs, families snuggle on blankets that they lay on the floor,” said Frank. “To me; this is what the holidays are all about:  Family, gratitude, kindness and giving.”

For more information about the Giving Nest Preschool and Kindergarten, visit http://www.givingnestpreschool.com. Prospective parents can also contact the school of their choice by calling North Plainfield at (908) 754-2060; Watchung at (908) 222-1003; Martinsville at (732) 302-1321; Bridgewater at (908) 704-9555; or Warren at (732) 893-8222