SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Memorial Middle School's Community Cares Club shows that volunteering and offering a helping hand can go a long way to making someone's day. The club began back in 2014 with only 13 members and has grown to include more than 90 students. Memorial's Community Cares Club is moderated by Memorial Middle School Science teacher Erin Glassen and Memorial School nurse Katherine Shkolar.

“While completing community service projects, students develop real world skills that will help them succeed not only in middle school, but high school and beyond. Most importantly, students learn that the work they do can make a real impact in the world,” explained Shkolar.

At last week's Spotswood Board of Education meeting, representatives from the group along with Glassen and Shkolar shared some compassionate projects they have been involved in during this school year. The Community Cares Club meets after school, but the members also volunteer their time on weekends and evenings to help out at various events throughout the school year.

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Back in November, the students helped Memorial's custodial staff clean tables following lunch and desks after school in honor of World Kindness Day. Their Pennies for Patients campaign raised more than $3,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The club also put together hygiene bags for Elijah's Promise. Elijah's Promise is a non-profit organization in New Brunswick that offers a soup kitchen in addition to other programs to assist people in need. Student volunteers were able to help with meal preparation at the Elijah's Promise Soup Kitchen as well as assist in the cleanup after a meal.

Locally, the club lends a helping hand to the Spotswood PTA, putting together Easter baskets for children in homeless shelters. The volunteers happily get involved in Mother's Day Flower sales at Memorial and other schools in the Spotswood District. The Community Care Club got global this year too, purchasing a goat from Heifer International. This program assists residents in poverty-stricken countries by providing milk, cheese and butter while also helping communities to become self-sufficient. Closer to home, the club was on hand to volunteer for Helmetta Day and the Spotswood tree lighting ceremony, both of which are well-attended community events.

"It feels so good to help others. I feel better about myself knowing that someone else might be doing a little better because of me," said Memorial eighth grader Anastasia Awadalla.

Memorial Middle School Principal Brian Kitchin attended the Community Cares Club presentation at the March 3 BOE meeting.

“The role these students play, and the projects they complete, directly influence and reinforce Memorial Middle School’s Character Education Honorable Mention Award for the second year in a row," Kitchin remarked following the student-led presentation. "It is with extreme confidence that next year Memorial School will be designated a School of Character!”