Many hands — even the smallest — make light work.
The students at Saint James School in Basking Ridge are on a mission to make life a little bit easier for people who can use a boost. Throughout the year, students take on service projects, such as collecting children's clothing, toys for the Bonnie Brae School and blankets for St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, and also join forces for larger, schoolwide efforts.
“When children participate in giving back — especially when they are doing something they enjoy — it becomes a positive experience they want to repeat,” says Suzanne Pasmore, a parent on Saint James’ Home-School Association Board who develops and executes the schoolwide projects.
In her youth, Pasmore had prepared meals for people less fortunate through her church and thought that was the type of project that could be done by children of all ages. While researching organizations, she discovered that The Samaritan Homeless Interim Program (SHIP) in Somerville accepted hot food. She called the nonprofit, which provides emergency services to people who are homeless or near homeless to enhance their chances of regaining self-sufficiency, and arranged for the schoolchildren to provide meals.
Before launching the project, the teachers spoke to their classes about how their work would benefit people who needed the help. The school also sent information, including SHIP’s website, home to the families.
They selected a recipe with 14 ingredients — creamy beef and pasta shells — and stocked the school’s pantry. Older students in grades 3 to 8 would cook the dinners and students in pre-K through second grade would assemble bags with four Oreos and Chips Ahoy! cookies in each.
Crockpots were placed in 12 classrooms and representatives from each class visited the pantry to select the ingredients and tools like measuring cups and stirring spoons. With their teachers’ help, the students assembled the ingredients and turned the crockpots on to cook. “So, the kids had that experience of the food cooking in their classroom all day,” Pasmore says. “And the whole school smelled like meat sauce. It was glorious.”
Meanwhile, the younger grades busily packed the cookie bags. “These kids — some as young as 3 and 4 — took their jobs seriously and really focused on counting out the cookies,” says Pasmore, whose own children are in pre-K and second grade. “They knew this was important, that they were doing something good.”
Since the school collected more ingredients than needed, they sent home meal kits for families to cook at home.
When everything was counted, the school and families had created 42 trays of food and more than 1,000 bags of cookies. They delivered the meals to SHIP over the course of several days.
“It is important that our students understand that there are people in the world who need help, nourishment, shelter and support. Often, children wonder ‘What does service to those in need look like for someone small like me?’ We provide opportunities for the students to see how their small part can grow into something big — helping many people in need,” says Sue Florendo, the school’s principal. “In our schoolwide service project during Catholic Schools Week, we celebrated each student’s contribution to the greater outcome. They saw that their small part fed many.”
Learn more about the good work being done by Saint James School at sjsbr.org. If you are interested in volunteering to help SHIP, visit ship908.com.