Westfield Kids, Parents Give Back This Holiday Season

Caren Lissner

WESTFIELD, NJ – They made lunches for the homeless, raised $1,070 via raking leaves, and gave gift cards to needy families. Westfield students and community members, including members of the high school's Community Service Club, found safe and creative ways to give back despite the challenges of coronavirus.

“During these very difficult times, the club has still managed to find ways to regularly perform acts of kindness in the community,” said Westfield High School Community Service Club advisers Gregory Bowers and Zorana Culjak. “We currently have over 200 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 holiday food and toy drives every year. This year, the process was different.

“We usually receive hundreds of toys and presents through our Holiday Drive which we donate to families through the Westfield Neighborhood Council,” said 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 said, the Washington School 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.

DIY kits are a hit

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,” said Lincoln PTO co-president Elise Garfinkel.

Superintendent of Schools Dr. Margaret Dolan said these were just a few of the many ways that the school community continued its tradition of giving back.

“Our students, staff, and families have always been committed to community service,” said 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,” added Gregory 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.”

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This article originally appeared on the Westfield Patch