HOLMDEL, NJ: All of us are assigned with daily tasks and responsibilities to check off as we move through our day. Many of us complete our tasks and check the box. Then there are those that take an ordinary task and turn it into something bigger to make a positive difference.  A great example of such a person is a young girl named Autumn, a fourth grader at Indian Hill School in Holmdel. 

For Autumn's social studies class her teacher Mrs. Gish assigned her students  to do a presentation about a recent natural disaster.  Students were expected to present their findings and encouraged to go “above and beyond” the assignment, with the ultimate goal being for students to explore and think deeply about real world events.  Autumn chose to do her presentation on 'homelessness in our community'.  Autumn comments, "Through doing my social studies assignment I learned that homelessness is a clear problem in our community and that one difficulty for the homeless people in helping them get a job is that they don't have the basic self care products that they need." 

Autumn also read that there is an organization that assists homeless teens and youth in crisis right here in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.  Autumn comments, " I found out that Ocean’s Harbor House helps about 100 youth a year by providing emergency shelter and other services.  They are always able to use self-care products and other basic necessities.  After thinking about this for the weekend and speaking with my Aunt Lucille, I decided that I was going to try to collect 100 backpacks by the New Year, so that I could fill them with basic necessities like shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, a toothbrush, comb and also give them a notebook and a pen.  These were all things that I thought I would like to have if I were all of a sudden away from my home. Every time someone donated to my project it made me so happy inside."

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Autumn set as her goal to donate 100 backpacks filled with hope by the New Year. She campaigned by putting signs up and rallying her classmates.  Autumn's mother Stacey commented, "It was amazing how many people stepped up to help her so that she could help others.  For instance, her Aunt Susan donated four backpacks and a generous gift card to Target to purchase some of the supplies.  Additional contributions came from her friends at Holmdel Kiwanis, her Aunt Alicia and Aunt Donna who donated over 20 backpacks, and her friends Jill Hall, Liz Bird, Mrs. Beland, her cousins Lauren and Maria and classmates Christine and Andrew, and her teacher Mrs. Gish."  

Autumn and her brother Frankie also donated their own money to purchase the products to be put in the backpacks. 

Autumn says, "When I first thought about doing this I did not really think it could be possible, but in the end I realized anything is possible when you have friends and family by your side. It is only because of the generosity of so many that I was able to reach my goal and donate 100 filled backpacks on December 23rd to Ocean’s Harbor House.  To all of those who donated what they could, I am so thankful. I enjoyed this experience because it made me really feel like I was able to give kindness."  

A great example of a wonderful teaching and learning experience that is creating ripples of hope and kindness for so many. 

For more information about the nonprofit 501 (c)(3) Ocean's Harbor House click here

Photos courtesy of Autumn's family.