By ANTHONY SPAULDING
Director of Communications
Pope John XXIII Regional High School
SPARTA — In a couple of months, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day will take place and there will be millions of donations to people in need.
While those days are important times to donate, Reverend George A. Brown Memorial School is trying to make it a habit to give to others year-round by instituting its “Extending Hands Program” this year.
For the first time, all of the PreK-Grade 4 students will be collecting food every month and will be donating it to different food pantries. On Monday, the students donated their September collection to Samaritan Inn in Newton.
“I believe that it is important to start a program like this at Reverend Brown because we are building leaders,” Reverend Brown Principal Mrs. Patricia Klebez said. “Yes, starting in PreK-4, our goal is to build future leaders. Part of being a strong and effective leader is being socially aware and understanding the responsibility leadership carries, the responsibility of taking care of those less fortunate.
“As a Catholic school community, our faith asks us to model the life of Christ. One of the focal points of His message is to care for one another and we feel this program affords us that opportunity.”
The idea of the program came from Reverend Brown kindergarten teacher aide Mrs. Monica Carelli, who has worked in the school for over 15 years and has been involved in a variety of community outreach programs. She thought of the idea last year when the school was hosting a “Stuff the Bus” fundraising campaign right around Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“This was something I always wanted to do,” Mrs. Carelli said. “Reverend Brown has always helped out with feeding the people that need it during those times. But, as I was driving to the ‘Stuff the Bus’ event, I thought, ‘Why are we not doing this the whole year?’”
Mrs. Carelli shared the idea with Mrs. Klebez, who not only felt it was a great idea but it was one that the school could easily implement for 2017-2018.
And in the first month of the program, Reverend Brown has done a fantastic job.
The students collected over 300 food and household items to Samaritan Inn. The Samaritan Inn is a non-profit organization that “provides emergency food and temporary shelter to homeless families in Sussex County as well as a program of counseling and skill building in family maintenance and growth,” according to its mission statement on its website.
Mrs. Carelli and Mrs. Klebez believe this program is a win-win situation for the students and the local food pantries. More importantly, they hope to see it grow for years to come.
“The students are learning to be giving,” Mrs. Carelli said. “We are helping out our community. What more can you ask?
“This is just the beginning.”