CALDWELL, NJ –  A Grover Cleveland Middle School teacher has been honored by the local Kiwanis Club for “doing good” and “teaching good.”

Mara LaBato, a math teacher in the Caldwell-West Caldwell School District, has worked with and advised the Builders Club at GCHS for the last 12 years. The extracurricular club organizes fundraisers, hosts parties for senior citizens, donates to local and national charities, and more, all under LaBato’s leadership.

This spring, the Kiwanis Club of Caldwell-West Essex and President MaryAnn Luke, showed LaBato that good deeds deserve recognition, presenting her with a certificate to recognize the important role she plays in the community and her contributions to community service programs as the Builders Club Advisor.

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“We try to vary the types of activities to show students that there are many, many ways in which they can help,” LaBato said. “We also held a used cell phone drive where we donated all of our cell phones to a domestic violence shelter, and we have collected soda can tops and donated them to The Ronald McDonald House where they have donated a certain amount of money per pound for what was sent to them.”

A Kiwanis Service Leadership Program, the Builders Club is an international student-led program providing students with opportunities to perform service, build character and develop leadership. Clubs are chartered in partnership with a Kiwanis club and a school or community-based organization serving middle or junior high school students.  The middle school’s club partners with the Kiwanis Club of Caldwell-West Essex.

Over the years, students involved with the Builders Club have participated in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF; made and served a Valentine's Day dinner for local seniors that includes live entertainment; worked with the PRIDE committee on their annual holiday Adopt-a-Family; and held numerous bake sales, food drives and coat drives.  The Club also sponsors a "Pajama Day", donating all of the proceeds to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“I work with the students in the Builders Club because I think it is a worthwhile cause,” LaBato said. “Getting recognized for doing something that I love and that matters to me is really an incredible thing.”