A Brown Bag from Chatham Travels to Newark

Lafayette Avenue School's Jim Cronin explains Bridges Outreach to his fifth grade class. Credits: Lucy Malatesta
This is the Unicorn bag that traveled to Newark with at least 300 other lunches Credits: Lucy Malatesta
Lafayette Avenue School's fifth graders pose with the 150 lunches they made for homeless friends in Newark. Credits: Lucy Malatesta
Sharon Dougherty, Lucy Malatesta, Lara and Dylan Pizzi, Mike, Tracey Haskell, Linda Duke, Laura McCormick, Yulan Zhang, Bo Radaam, Lisa Steward, Paul Malatesta and Yuwen Zhang Credits: Lucy Malatesta
Lafayette Avenue School volunteers along with Stanley Congregational Church friends and family make 200 additional lunches for homeless friends in Newark through Bridges Outreach. Credits: Janet Moran

This adorable brown lunch bag, decorated with a unicorn and the simple message, “Have a Good Day,” made the trip from Chatham’s Lafayette Avenue School to Newark Saturday.

This was part of a Bridges Outreach “run” to support homeless friends with food, clothing and fellowship. Bridges Outreach is a homeless advocacy organization, headquartered in Summit.

For over 25 years they have made it possible for schools, houses of worship and businesses to help and interact with the homeless in New York and New Jersey. James Cronin and Ann Worden’s fifth grade classes decorated 150 bags and their families donated the contents for that many lunches.

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Fridayt the kids and parent volunteers assembled them in about 45 minutes. These two teachers volunteer their classes every year which is a huge help. Later the same day, more volunteers from Lafayette joined Stanley Congregational Church’s friends and family to make about 200 more lunches.

There were so many helpers the mission was accomplished in around 30 minutes. Many of these bags were decorated by the even younger children (K-3) of Washington Avenue School where art teacher Kenji Hasegawa has made Bridges bag decorating part of his curriculum.

The lunches, including the unicorn bag, were stuffed into the back of two volunteers’ cars to make their way to Summit Saturday morning. Next, they were loaded onto the yellow Bridges’ truck by our crew of thirteen teenagers and adults including Stanley folk, Chatham High School and New Providence High School students.

All drove to Newark and set up on Mulberry Street, near the Prudential Center. There was already a long line of people waiting. Bridges’ employees David and Tobias directed us to put out the folding tables and start serving soup and hot chocolate.

The thermometer said 40 degrees but the wind was strong enough to blow cups off the table and the real feel was in the 20’s. It was definitely a good day for a hot drink! This part of the Bridges’ run is the best time to make friends, some of whom were younger than our elementary school volunteers! Jordan is a pint sized football player with beautiful long hair like some of the NFL pros. He’s rooting for the Patriots next week.

He was there with his grandfather Martin. Zaire is a kindergartner there with his family. There were at least two moms with little ones in strollers. I met Angel, an adult, who is proud of his two sons in the military. George, whom I’ve met before, can’t see. I helped him find a shaving kit, toothpaste and mouthwash from a container of donated toiletries. The decorated lunches were handed out to these friends along with sweatshirts and fleeces which were very welcome on this cold, blustery day. The Unicorn bag says “Have a Good Day.” The efforts of our young volunteers made these words a possibility for our homeless friends and a definite for me. Thank you, everyone for taking part in this very real outreach effort and for giving me an excellent couple of days.

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