NEWTON, NJ—The Weekend Bag Program created by Newton High School junior Isobel Costello, has partnered with Sojihuggles.

The mission of the group with the funny name, according to their website is to “provide underprivileged children with basic necessities so they may grow and take advantage of opportunities, allowing them to thrive, experience purpose in life, and contribute to society in meaningful ways.”

Costello spoke at a Newton Town Council meeting in 2018 and an attendee reached out to her saying that perhaps her program and Sojihuggles could work together to help the children of Sussex County.

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“It’s imperative that children have food seven days a week, not just on weekdays,” founder T. Love said. “The Weekend Bag Program Isobel started helps ensure children do not go hungry on weekends. It’s a natural fit. We want this program to expand so we reach all those who are in need, throughout the entire year, not just when school is in session.”

Costello’s family has been helping her the past three years with her program when they were working with Connect 4 Community in Sparta. Currently, as they are working with Sojihuggles now, the family is housing all of the products they use to make their “bags” in the basement in their house, but are looking for other storage options.

“Right now, our greatest challenge is storage space. We desperately need a place to store the food that we purchase. It doesn’t stay long in storage as the bags are prepared and distributed weekly,” Love said. “Sojihuggles is run completely by volunteers. The weekend bag program is a part of that. No one receives a salary, stipend or compensation of any kind and 100% of every donation received directly supports children in need.”

Love and the program are asking anyone who is willing to donate to come forward. “10’ x 10’ [storage space] would give us enough room to do what is necessary to bring in food and pack the bags. It would, of course, be a charitable donation and therefore a tax write-off, plus it will do your heart good to know the positive impact you’ll be making to the kids in this community. It’s huge. Kids need food to study and learn. Sojihuggles is here to give kids a fair chance in life. We’ve been doing that only with the help of the entire community – everyone who contributes or donates is making a huge, positive impact and we are most grateful.”

The Weekend Bag program is always looking for donations of monetary value so goods can be purchased or of goods that go into the bags 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
  • Jell-O or pudding packs (non-refrigerated)
  • Canned fruit
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Body soap (bar or liquid)
  • Feminine products (much needed)
  • Deodorant

For more information or to see how you can help visit https://www.sojihuggles.org/weekend-bag or reach out to Costello via email at theweekendbagprogram@yahoo.com.