SOMERSET, NJ - Elizabeth Avenue School 4th and 5th graders and staff members volunteered to pack up more than 175 care packages, in the shool's cafeteria, for the homeless earlier this month. 

The care packages, packed in backpacks contained a sandwich, an apple, blankets, hats, gloves, socks, baby wipes, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, first aid kit, cookies, guacamole and handwritten cards with words of encouragement. 

School officials said the "pay it forward" event was an extension of the water recycling bottle challenge put forth by EAS Phys. Ed. Teacher, Jarrett Locke's not-for-profit organization, Recycle4Hope. EAS students also collected bottles to donate, so Recyle4Hope volunteers can turn the bottles in for a $.05 deposit. 

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Recyle4Hope incorporated in April and has been using money raised through bottle donations to fund care package packing events. However, donations from the Franklin Foodbank and Panera Bread helped fill up care packages for the EAS pay it forward event. 

"We received so many donations we didn't have to use the bottle money," Locke told TAPinto. "What we did and how the homeless people ate that day would not be possible without the Franklin Foodbank."

The care packages packed by EAS students were distributed throughout New York City by Recylce4Hope volunteers on Dec. 13 and 14. 

"We do all of our work in New York City because that is where we found our biggest homeless population," Locke told TAPinto. "It was easier to hand out 180 care packages right around Penn Station."

Bottle collections are also taken to New York because it is the closest state that will pay for bottles.  

Locke a Piscataway resident, student taught in Franklin Public Schools and says it was a very positive experience for him. Locke said his experience with the district made it very easy to accept a full-time position when one was offered to him shortly after he graduated from the College of New Jersey. 

Next year Recyle4Hope is looking to find partners to help expand its service offerings. Currently, Sayville Smith Running Company donates their bottle from races, and Chow and Sons Logistics transports many of the donations. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, TAP here

TAPinto Franklin/Somerset is independently owned and operated by  Malik A. Lyons FHS Class of 93’ Graduate. 

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