ELIZABETH, NJ - As a way of giving thanks and giving back, area teen Sebastian Nativo is helping to ensure that 16 families have the opportunity to enjoy a delicious mean this Thanksgiving holiday.

Working with Family Promise Union County in Elizabeth, the seventh grader from Rahway has been collecting donations to fill holiday boxes with a cornucopia of ingredients to prepare a hearty Thanksgiving dinner for families battling homelessness. Summit-based Family Promise is a national nonprofit addressing the crisis of family homelessness.

This is far from the first time that Sebastian has served his community. He was just four when his parents first got their children into volunteering.

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“Sebastian was so little when we took him to volunteer, he couldn’t even reach the tables to put the sandwiches in the bags we were making for the homeless,” said Monica Nativo, Sebastian's mom.

“My parents have always taught me to give back and that we are lucky to have what we have,” noted Sebastian. “And my teacher and principal are always supporting my ideas. It’s all this support I get that helps me keep going.”

This year, as COVID hit the nation, Sebastian distributed 22 donated Kindles to facilitate remote learning for children who didn’t have access to proper technology. He has delivered Easter baskets and collected food donations to families in need, and even started a website -- sebastiansactsofkindness.com -- to promote the causes he supports and solicit donations from the community.

Sebastian says he gets particularly inspired at holidays.

“I know these are happy times, and times spent with family and friends,” he said. “I want people to feel as happy as I do during these times, and if I can offer a little relief to them, I will.”

He’s not alone in these endeavors. His parents, 11-year-old sister Luchia (11), and nine-year-old brother Vincent (9) are part of his “team,” not to mention the people who support his projects.

As he states on his website, “I could not do this without the love and support of everyone involved! [P]eople need to see that every action and every dollar can impact a life!”

This Thanksgiving, Sebastian’s team also includes Pinho’s Bakery in Roselle, NJ, which is donating fresh pies, and Home Depot, which donated the boxes that will be used to deliver the dinners. Every box will have enough turkey, side dishes, pie, beverages, and dinnerware to serve four to five people (with leftovers!), as well as a cooking tin for the turkey.

Family Promise Manager of Volunteer Engagement Amy Jones says, “We are so grateful for these generous Thanksgiving boxes for our families! With all of the social distancing we must do to be safe today, it’s heartwarming to see that our community can still come together.”

While many are thankful for Sebastian’s work this Thanksgiving, he has his own reasons to celebrate the holiday.

“I am thankful for everything I have, my family, and that I can do this!” he says. “If I can pay it forward, and then others see what I do, then maybe they will pay it forward and it will just be a chain reaction. I am thankful I can cause those ripples.”

Founded in Summit more than three decades ago, Family Promise addresses the issue of family homelessness with prevention, shelter, and stabilization services. Comprised of more than 200 affiliates in 43 states, the organization serves more than 90,000 individuals each year.