The students, staff, and families of the Westfield Public School District have a longstanding tradition of giving back to communities in need, not only during the holidays but throughout the school year.
As the holidays approach, school PTOs and clubs are organizing food drives with specific holiday meal items, personalized cards and letters to be sent to U.S. troops, and other charitable efforts to bring assistance, and hopefully a smile, to those who are struggling.
There are many year round efforts as well. Westfield students continue a weekly tradition of bringing and making extra lunches on a designated day (Two Lunch Tuesdays, for example) to donate to local charities, including St. Joseph’s Social Service Center in Elizabeth. There are coat drives, Halloween costume drives, and many more food drives. There are book donations to aid schools without a library. Student clubs also provide additional avenues to give back, including the Westfield High School Community Service Club, student government at the high school and intermediate schools, and the Early Act Club, a service club for 5th grade students sponsored by the Rotary Club of Westfield and held at several of the district’s elementary schools.
And there are creative twists to charitable giving.
“As we focus on the social-emotional well-being of our students, one topic that we spend lots of time on is showing kindness and spreading kindness to others,” says Washington School 2nd grade teacher Christine Olenick. “We learned that, at most food pantries, birthday items do not always arrive at the same time. If it is a child's birthday, the child would be lucky to find cake mix and frosting at the food pantry.”
So, under the direction of Olenick and her fellow 2nd grade teachers Christine Culver, Patricia Honeywell, and Elizabeth Martin, Washington 2nd graders gathered recently to assemble “Birthday Kits,” filling 40 cake pans with donated items including cake mix, icing, plates, napkins, candles, and a birthday card written and decorated by the 2nd graders. The students wrapped the kits and a Washington parent delivered them to a local food pantry.
“I have enjoyed witnessing our school community in action but never more so than during such acts of kindness,” says Superintendent Dr. Raymond González. “I am proud to be part of a community that places such importance on giving back.”