NEWTON, NJ—Newton High School junior, Isobel Costello was recently honored by U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer during his third Hometown Hero Awards ceremony for her Weekend Bags initiative. The ceremony honors New Jersey residents who have made outstanding contributions to their community.
As a freshman, Costello came up with the idea for Weekend Bags one day after wondering if her fellow students would have enough food to last them through the weekend.
She coordinated with local nonprofit Connect For Community and Thor Labs, who donated canvas bags to hold the items to help care for these students. Costello assembles approximately 175 bags a week with her mother and a few other volunteers for students across five schools. Recently a sixth school has been added to the initiative.
The extensive cost of the program restricts Costello to only be able to care for 15 students from each school, leaving a large number of students in need. There are over 100 just in the Newton elementary school that could benefit from this program, according to Costello.
Over the last three months, Costello has gotten numerous donations. Members of the Newton Town Council, as well as some of those who attended the meeting in which she spoke at, donated a total of $465 to the program. Former board of education member Jessica Eigner collected food during the Christmas season and donated at least 10 bags of usable items to Costello’s program.
Nisivoccia, LLP, certified public accountants and advisors, is hosting their monthly “Jeans Day” event in honor of the Weekend Bags Program for the month of January. Employees donate $5 to wear jeans, along with an item from Costello’s list of goods if they choose. All the proceeds will be delivered to Costello at the end of the month.
“Today’s awardees are bound by a shared sense of duty – to their families, their communities, and their country,” Gottheimer said at the awards ceremony. “They are our veterans, our firefighters, our first responders, our educators, and our family – our brothers and sisters and our sons and daughters. None of these people stood up because they sought recognition, they did it because they wanted to do what was right. That’s what Jersey Values are about and that's what makes me certain that we live in the greatest country in the world. On behalf of the Fifth District, I couldn't be more proud to honor these Hometown Heroes today.”
This year the Fifth District Hometown Heroes Awards were presented to community leaders, first responders, veterans, members of the business community, students, such as Costello and seniors, so that they may be recognized for their dedication to improving the lives of their neighbors, families, and all NJ resident according to the congressman.
Gottheimer heard about Costello’s efforts after one of his representatives heard her speak to the Newton Board of Education last month about the program.
Congressman Gottheimer commented on Costello’s program and how impactful it has been and will continue to be.
“Isobel is exactly the type of person I am talking about when I talk about 'Jersey Values'. She puts the needs of others ahead of her own, and has helped so many in need through the 'Weekend Bag Program.' I am incredibly grateful for the work she's done and continues to do in North Jersey.”
While Costello is on the verge of graduation in a year, she has already started putting into motion a plan to continue the program, with the help of her two younger sisters and her mother.
The Weekend Bags contain items such as:
- Crackers, cookies, Granola bars (snack foods)
- Microwave popcorn
- Meals in a can
- Soups (canned, dry or cups)
- Canned tuna or chicken
- Boxed cereal
- Packaged oatmeal
- Mac n cheese
- Pasta and pasta sauce
- Jello or pudding packs (non refrigerated)
- Canned fruit
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Body soap (bar or liquid)
- Feminine products (much needed)
Community members can help by donating goods from this list or with monetary donations as well so items can be purchased.
To get involved in the Weekend Bags program, Costello can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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