To the Editor:

Dear SBS Third Grade Team, CHS volunteers and Stanley Family members,

Southern Boulevard School’s counselor, Kelly Medvin, wanted to work with Bridges Outreach, a Summit, NJ based homeless advocacy non-profit, to help the children celebrate Hope Week and we all had a great experience coming together to bring food and fellowship to our homeless friends.

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Third grade families were asked to donate turkey, fruit, snacks, and drinks to make 250 brown bag lunches and the students decorated the bags with messages of hope. Bridges’ volunteer and CHS graduate Liz Malatesta and staff member John Dodge came earlier in the month to give the students a lesson and answer their questions on homelessness to make sure they understood the importance of the project. Their session greatly increased the number of third graders willing to give up their recess to make lunches!

Friday’s lunch making was a whirlwind! Five SBS moms, SBS paraprofessionals, and custodians pitched in to help make 250 lunches and load them into my minivan in under an hour! On Saturday, Mrs. Medvin, her son Milo, and nine other volunteers met at Bridges’ headquarters to help run coordinators Dave and Cyprene load the big yellow truck with lunches, socks, toiletries, hot cocoa, and chicken noodle soup before heading to Newark.

The first stop was in front of St. James Church. There were men, women, and a few children lined up waiting for us. Bridges comes every Saturday at the same time so our friends can count them. High Schoolers Caleb, Sam, and Milo took the cups ladled out by Isabella and Duke and walked up and down the line. “Sir, would you like hot cocoa?” “Ma’am, would you like some soup?” Most homeless people rarely experience courtesy like this and it was very much appreciated. The other food, socks, and toiletries were laid out on folding tables. Our friends moved respectfully through the line, loading their shopping bags with the beautifully decorated lunches and other items.

As we were wrapping up, we got to chat with some of our friends. Volunteer Heidi met a young mother who could really use the baby stroller sitting useless in her basement. We will make that happen. Mrs. Medvin and I made friends with Vinnie and his brother Herman. We were surprised to find out we were born the same year, so we took a picture together. Next, Dave led us to a men’s homeless shelter where we donated the rest of the lunches. We met a few residents and staff but were not able to hang out. That’s ok; we were grateful to know that the food was going to people who need it.

Third graders, I need you to know that our friend Vinnie received an SBS lunch he really liked. It said, “You are never too old, or ever too young to have hope.” He and his brother kept reading it over and over. Vinnie and Herman said “thank you,” and blew kisses at Mrs. Medvin, me, and all the volunteers. Yes, it was a very hopeful moment. You are never too old or ever too young to change the world! Thank you for believing in that and making this Bridges Outreach run to Newark possible.

Love, Mrs. Malatesta (Bridges Run leader and CMS paraprofessional)