To the Editor:

Dear Washington Avenue School third grade students and families, WAS staff and administrators and my hearty, hardy Bridges Outreach crew,

Thank you for all you did to make this Bridges run to Newark today a success. Bridges Outreach, a Summit, NJ based homeless advocacy group, sends volunteers to Newark, Irvington and New York City four days a week to bring food, clothing, and friendship to our friends experiencing homelessness. When a group signs up they are committing to 250 brown bag lunches and up to 15 volunteers to deliver them.

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On Friday, March 6, WAS teacher Nicole Jones and Principal Kristine Dudlo led the entire third grade in two shifts of lightning speed lunch making. The students’ families along with WAS staff members and other Bridges’ friends donated turkey, bread, cheese sticks, granola bars, fruit, and bottled water to fill the beautifully decorated lunch bags the children had created. Teachers, paraprofessionals, security and custodial staff pitched in to make this one of the most efficient Bridges lunch making sessions I have ever seen and I have seen a lot of them.

The day before, I got to speak with the third grade and answer any questions. This was special because I have known many of these students since kindergarten. Their questions and comments were amazing, smart, and sensitive. Patrick wants me to tell Bridges to go to Morristown where he has seen homeless people. Lila asked if she can come with me to deliver the lunches when she gets older. Yes, Patrick, yes, Lila, of course!

Our Saturday run started off a bit rough. Recent news stories caused my original crew of 12 to shrink to 5. Then a small miracle happened. Javier and Diana showed up to drop off lunches made by their church in Creskill, NJ. The couple had never been on a Bridges run before but when they heard they were needed, they got back in their car and followed us to Newark. What nice people!

Our first stop was Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Our friends were lined up waiting for us, but because there were so few volunteers, a few of those friends helped set up the tables and lunches. It was sunny but very windy. We handed out all of our chicken noodle soup and hot chocolate which I’m sure tasted good on this chilly day.  Chatham High School volunteers Molly and Caitriona liked meeting a little girl and a four-year-old boy but were sad that children so young were experiencing homelessness. A friend I remember called out to me, “Lucy!” “Hey Jeff,” I said. “Today’s lunches were made by my third-grade friends.” “Really?’ he said. “You tell them Jeff said thank you!”

Our second stop was a shelter that houses 300 men and women. We set up inside putting lunches, sandwiches, snacks, toiletries and clothing on tables for our friends to pick up. They sat down to eat picnic-style because shelter rules say no food upstairs.  One friend, Raymond, remembered me and asked me to marry him! We laughed at the joke but I love that Raymond sees me as a good friend. It is so good to laugh and share food with our friends. Thank you, all of you, for making it possible!

Love,

Lucy Malatesta - Bridges Outreach Run Leader – CMS Paraprofessional