With the holidays near, young Brick volunteers have caught the "Spirit of Giving," earning them honors from the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
, and all recently were honored with the Food Bank's Spirit of Giving Award for their generous donations.
Emma Havens counselor Denise Wirth was moved by the students' compassion. As a counselor, Wirth has seen many children pass through the halls, from first through fifth grades, but this year her kids stunned her.
With so many donations, some children voluntarily gave up their recess to help sort through the donations, making sure all were acceptable (i.e. no glass jars, no expired food) and then packed them in boxes for collection.
“It’s a huge school-wide effort,” Wirth said.
Jessica Shotwell, the fourth grade Hunger Challenge captain at Emma Havens, was personally touched by the plight of other children who may not have enough to eat.
“People who didn’t have good food... had no focus in school. I got really, really, worried about it. So I wanted to help,” Jessica said.
Midstreams Elementary School made a game of the Food Bank donation drive.
The “friendly competition” had the students motivated to get donations in. For every item that was brought in, a link was added to a paper chain hung outside the door frames of each classroom. Whichever class had the longest chain won extra recess time.
“The friendly competition was not aggressive, but it gave the kids a visual. They were able to see it,” said Julie Caputo, school social worker and counselor. “It makes it real for them.”
Although the Food Bank drive started in September, Midstreams didn’t start promoting it until November, tying it in with their character education program. November was the month for “citizenship,” and what better way to show good citizenship than by coordinating donations for those in need in your community?
“Getting parents aware and involved, having teachers on board — it encouraged to give back. The kids generated their own enthusiasm,” said Principal Dr. John Billen. After that the food poured in, eventually accumulating about 4 pounds per student.
“It starts with the kids at home. I really think it starts with the kids wanting to do it. It starts within,” Billen said.
This Spirit of Giving Award was given to 19 of 91 schools in Monmouth and Ocean counties.
“Elementary school sets the pace for academic success. It really sets the pace,” Wirth said.
Michael Delaney was the fifth grade Hunger Challenge captain at Emma Havens, and though he will be graduating from elementary to secondary, Michael said he plans to continue giving.
“I’ve had Michael since first grade. He’s one of those who has a passion for the community,” Wirth said.