EAST HANOVER, NJ - If there’s one thing that helps to keep a person going during difficult times, it’s the comfort of a good meal. People, and especially first responders, still need to eat no matter what.

The teachers union of the East Hanover Education Association (EHEA) felt the same way as they watched their local first responders put in extra hours as the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The EHEA is made up of 120-plus members of the school district who work as teachers, secretaries, custodians, and maintenance workers. Each year, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) sponsors PRIDE grants, asking for proposals from associations to create events that bring the community stakeholders into the schools to foster a partnership. And this year, the EHEA hosted an Optical Fair at East Hanover Middle School, participated in One Day, One School at Central Elementary School, and hosted a Dinner and Play Night where senior citizens were treated to a free dinner and play performed by the East Hanover Middle School students in “Sound of Music.”

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“With the pandemic forcing school closures for the spring, spring PRIDE events were cancelled,” said Lisa Mangione, Pre-K teacher of Students with Disabilities at Central Elementary School, who is EHEA co-president with Jen Goudreau.

“So NJEA decided to ‘repurpose’ the money from the cancelled events by allowing the association to write new proposals that would benefit the community. The EHEA decided to give back to frontline workers in East Hanover. Lunch was provided for the East Hanover Police Department, the Volunteer Fire Department, and the First Aid Squad. Pucchiarello’s Italian Kitchen catered the lunch for the 35 police officers, fire fighters, and first aid squad members on Friday, May 8th. They enjoyed handmade stuffed shells, chicken francese and salad.”

The EHEA has also purchased and gave away 23 pairs of clog shoes to the Morristown Memorial Hospital. This donation was coordinated through Runner’s Haven, a running specialty store located in Randolph. The EHEA also donated leftover herb planters, snacks, and water bottles, which were purchased for winter events or the cancelled spring events to the East Hanover Essential Angels Project, a fundraiser to support essential workers of the local area. The Essential Angels then created goodie bags for the workers at Sycamore Living, a step down COVID-19 facility in East Hanover, as a big “thank you.”

Such charity accomplishments are amazing considering the difficult adjustments imposed by the COVID-19 lockdown.

“School life during this pandemic has been an adjustment for teachers and students,” said Mangione.

“Practically overnight, we went from delivering instruction in person to solely providing it remotely. With ease, the hurdle of moving to online learning was overcome and we were up and running! Teachers are meeting with students on Google Meets, and providing meaningful assignments and learning tasks in Google Classroom. Check out the district’s Distance Learning site to see it all!”

Looking at the Facebook and Instagram accounts of the district police, first and first aid, these donations have received positive feedback and praise. Though at this time, no further donations are being planned, it’s clear that if first responders ever need anything else, there are many supporting hands in East Hanover, including the EHEA.

“School life during this pandemic has been an adjustment for teachers and students,” said Mangione.  “Practically overnight, we went from delivering instruction in person to solely providing it remotely. With ease, the hurdle of moving to online learning was overcome and we were up and running! Teachers are meeting with students on Google Meets, and providing meaningful assignments and learning tasks in Google Classroom. Check out the district’s Distance Learning site to see it all!”