Whether creating holiday cards for senior care facilities, conducting food drives and collecting warm clothing for families in need, or donating masks and cleaning wipes to school staff, the Westfield Public Schools community continues its tradition of giving, despite challenges presented by COVID-19.
“During these very difficult times, the club has still managed to find ways to regularly perform acts of kindness in the community,” say Westfield High School Community Service Club advisers Gregory Bowers and Zorana Culjak. “We currently have over two hundred students who are actively and safely participating in the many activities we have initiated since the beginning of the school year.”
The WHS Community Service Club held its annual leaf raking fundraiser in November, raising $1,070 for the WHS Helping Hands Fund to support members of the school community. Club members also recently collected food and warm socks for local charities, while making 200 lunches for Bridges Outreach, a non-profit Summit-based organization working to support homeless individuals.
The Parent Teacher Council (PTC) and individual school Parent Teacher Organizations (PTOs) have found creative ways to support the school community and individuals in need as well. The PTC raised over $22,000 last spring and summer, purchasing grocery store gift cards to assist local families and continued its fundraising effort this fall.
School PTOs hold generous holiday food and toy drives every year. This year, the generosity remains, even as the process is different.
“We usually receive hundreds of toys and presents through our Holiday Drive which we donate to families through the Westfield Neighborhood Council,” says Washington School PTO co-president Kami Carulli. “This year, in an effort to keep things safe and simple during the pandemic, we asked our Washington community to donate gift cards to stores and restaurants as well as new toys.”
The schools have continued the weekly tradition of donating extra lunches to area food pantries. In November, Carulli says the Washington community collected approximately 240 sandwiches, 2 dozen bagged sides,15 bags of fresh produce, 20 bags of clothes/boots and a truckload of additional nonperishable items for a local food pantry.
There were plenty of virtual fundraisers, including Do-It-Yourself kits offered by area merchants for families to create an ornament, make a pizza, or bake and decorate a sweet treat.
“These DIY kits helped to create memorable family experiences while supporting our local Westfield stores and the Lincoln School PTO,” says Lincoln PTO co-president Elise Garfinkel.
Superintendent Dr. Margaret Dolan says these are just a few of the many ways that the school community is continuing its tradition of giving back.
“Our students, staff, and families have always been committed to community service,” says Dolan. “I am proud of the creative and safe ways they have found to meet the increased need created by COVID-19.”
“The pandemic has created many obstacles for all of us,” adds Bowers. “It is inspiring to see WHS Community Service Club members rise to the challenge and work to help so many people in the community. The work they are doing is as impressive as it is heartwarming.”