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Point Pleasant Borough Schools honored by FoodBank after season of givingCharity

The Point Pleasant Borough School District has earned a reputation for demonstrating extraordinary generosity with regard to charitable giving. No matter season, the district’s staff, students and greater school community enthusiastically respond to almost every plea for assistance that they receive, coming together to donate their time, resources and materials - not just during the holidays, but all year long.

“Philanthropy is an important part of the Point Pleasant Borough School District educational experience,” said Superintendent of Schools Vincent S. Smith. “By participating in philanthropic efforts, our students develop a sense of citizenship and empathy and an understanding of the struggles faced by the less fortunate. Through giving back, our students learn that even the smallest efforts can affect major changes in the world.”

It is for this reason, according to the Superintendent, that charitable efforts are supported and encouraged by the administration and Board of Education.

“The school year began with a district-wide effort to support Southern Louisiana’s efforts to recover from the historic floods that swept the area this summer,” said Superintendent Smith. “Through a combination of donation receptacles placed at specific locations and events, a staff ‘Jeans Day’ fundraiser, and donations from the district’s affiliated organizations, the district was able to donate $3,523.57 to support the Louisiana School Boards Association’s Fund for Restoring Schools!”

Although giving extends throughout the year, according to the Superintendent, at no time is the district’s altruistic spirit more evident than during the months preceding the holidays.

Ocean Road Character Crew“Coming together during the holiday season in support of those in need has become our district’s most time-honored holiday tradition; and it is something that I am incredibly proud of,” said the Superintendent.  “Every year, our schools coordinate various charitable drives, collecting gifts and necessities for those in need.”

Superintendent Smith said that each school has implemented their own traditions designed around charitable giving.

“This year marked Memorial Middle School’s 21st year of participation in the St. Jude’s Math-a-Thon,” said Principal Gary Floyd. “This year’s Math-a-Thon raised an incredible $3,474.25 for St. Jude’s, bringing Memorial School’s lifetime total contributions to an incredible $123,254.42.”

Additional charitable endeavors took place at all four district schools throughout the holiday season.

At Point Pleasant Borough High School, seniors and staff members gave the gift of life for the holidays, partnering with the Central Jersey Blood Center, for the school’s annual Thanksgiving Blood Drive.

“During the busy holiday season, blood banks typically experience critical shortages but, sadly, there’s no holiday from needing blood,” said coordinator, Point Pleasant Borough High School Math Teacher Katrina Salvatoriello. “According to the American Red Cross, someone in this country needs blood every two seconds, what better way to give thanks for your health and good fortune during the holiday season than by sharing the gift of life with someone in need.”

In addition to Memorial Middle School’s efforts on behalf of St. Jude, the school’s Student Council also sponsored an annual Wreaths Across America wreath laying ceremony to honor the nation’s fallen heroes for the holidays.Memorial School Wreaths Across America

Nellie Bennett Elementary School hosted their annual pajama drive to help keep kids in need warm all winter long.

“The Pajama Program helps collect new pajamas for children in need, especially those children in foster or group homes and shelters, where even something as simple as a pair of pajamas to call their own can transform their nights,” said Fourth Grade Teacher Gina Martin, who coordinates the annual drive. “This year’s Pajama Drive yielded 192 pairs of pajamas, which will help children in difficult circumstances have good nights and better days.”

Ocean Road Elementary School’s second graders helped brighten the holidays for active duty soldiers with handmade cards sent overseas while the school’s Fifth Grade Character Crew really got into the season of giving, volunteering at Long Branch’s Meal at Noon soup kitchen.

All district schools once again lent Santa a helping hand by donating toys and gifts to local families with holiday giving trees furnished by St. Gregory’s Pantry.

While all of the school’s charitable efforts were successful, perhaps none were as prolific as the Students Change Hunger Holiday Food Drive competition, in which all district schools participated for the ninth consecutive year.

Developed through a collaborative effort between the New Jersey Federation of Food Banks, a consortium of five independent nonprofit food banks, Students Change Hunger challenges New Jersey’s students, staff, teachers and parents to organize food drive events in schools in support of less fortunate New Jerseyans. The Federation is comprised of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, the Food Bank of South Jersey, Mercer Street Friends, NORWESCAP Food Bank as well as the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, formerly the lead organization for the Holiday Hunger Challenge.

The group’s primary purpose is the collection and distribution of charitable food to those that are at risk of hunger in our state.

The Students Change Hunger program’s participating schools compete against each other, with the goal of collecting the most food for their local FoodBank. The schools that collect the most, win various awards of distinction from their local FoodBank.

The 2016 Challenge collected 113,942 pounds of food for the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, allowing the organization to provide 95,000 meals to Monmouth and Ocean County residents in need. Of that total, an astounding 7,316 pounds of food, equivalent to 3.66 tons and an astounding 6.4 percent of the total food collected, was donated by Point Pleasant Borough’s schools!

“Our schools’ holiday food collection efforts demonstrate the profound impact young people can have toward the mitigation of hunger,” said Superintendent Smith. “By collecting more than 7,300 pounds of food in just a few short months, our students, staff and parents fulfilled the Federation of Food Banks’ objective, dramatically changing hunger for the season, and raising awareness about hunger in New Jersey that will last a lifetime.”

The assistance comes at a critical time, according to the FoodBank, as the organization continues to face increased demand for food assistance due to prolonged economic difficulties affecting many area families.

“When students participate in charitable endeavors like Students Change Hunger, everybody wins,” said Mr. Smith. PPBHS Student Council

“The immediate benefit of the challenge is the alleviation of hunger during the holiday season,” he said. “The long-term benefit, however, is the impact these types of activities have toward the development of a social imperative among today’s youth, which positively affects the entire society.

“I’m very pleased that all four district schools, and their respective food drive coordinators, embraced this effort so enthusiastically,” he added.

On Jan. 24, the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties’ hosted a special reception at iPlay America Theme Park in Freehold, where they honored the Students Change Hunger winners, among them Ocean Road Elementary School, Memorial Middle School and Point Pleasant Borough High School as well as Memorial Middle School seventh-grader Amy Scraggs who was recognized for her winning entry to the Second Annual Students Change Hunger Art & Essay Contest.

For raising 1,686 pounds of food in an effort that was coordinated by the school’s Fifth Grade Character Crew, Ocean Road Elementary School was inducted into the Students Change Hunger’s 1,500 Club, which honors schools that collect in excess of 1,500 pounds of food.

“Participation in the Students Change Hunger Challenge is something that the Character Crew takes very seriously,” said Ocean Road Special Education Teacher and Character Crew Advisor Pam Kendall.  “The students are not only responsible for packing and loading the boxes onto a school bus but also delivering them to the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, where they have the opportunity to tour the FoodBank and learn about the vital work they perform in our community. This has always been an eye-opening experience for the Character Crew that helps to illustrate the severity of hunger in our area in a very authentic and profound way.”

The members of Ocean Road’s Fifth Grade Character Crew are: Ava Blasi, Emily Brundage, Aidan Danza, Owen Dewysockie, Chris Disbrow, Isabel Harrison, Dennise Hernandez-Zuniga, Gavan Judnick, Madison Hudanish, Rowan Lapp, Sergio Llauger, Alaina Sollas, Timothy Stamm, Daniel Torres, Emilee Bravin, Ava Rios, Derek Rios, Evan Veenboer, Jessica Santiago-Sanchez.

With a record-breaking 2,906 pounds of food collected, Memorial Middle was inducted into the 2,500 Club, one of only four schools to collect in excess of 2,500 pounds of food.

Memorial School seventh grade student Amy Scraggs won the Students Change Hunger Essay Competition’s Mary Conlon Volunteer Spirit Award for her essay on the topic of the importance of volunteerism.

MMS Amy Scraggs at the FoodBankAmy joined Challenge co-coordinators Courtney Fehring and Tracy Ferm and Principal Gary Floyd at the awards ceremony where she read her winning essay.

“To inspire our students’ participation, we instituted two friendly competitions for this year’s Challenge,” said Mrs. Fehring. “The first was a competition between homerooms, where the homeroom that donated the most food by weight won a pizza party, sponsored by the Student Council; the second competition was among grades, who competed to win a special movie day. Seventh graders were victorious in both competitions – Mrs. Keelan’s homeroom received the pizza party, and they also won the grade level competition. On the last day before Winter Break, the entire seventh grade class watched the movie Elf while enjoying an array of snacks that were donated by the PTO.”

Mrs. Fehring explained that the school also hosted an individual competition for students who donated at least five pounds of food.

“Students who donated five pounds of food earned a special ‘Five Pound Panther Paw,’ which they used to enter into a drawing to attend the awards ceremony at iPlay America,” she said.   “Anna McCourt, Logan Morris, Andrea LaMorticella and Kelly Burns were chosen via random drawing from all Panther Paws received and accompanied us to the ceremony.”

Point Pleasant Borough High School’s Student Council-managed drive raised 2,036 pounds of food for this year’s challenge, earning their place – for the second consecutive year – in the 1,500 Club.

“Although we’re thrilled to once again be included in the 1,500 Club, we’re still aiming to make it into the 2,500 Club,” said Katrina Salvatoriello, who serves as advisor to the Student Council.

Student Council officers Sara Campbell, Kaitlyn Seitter and Nicole Bedle and club member Briella Pulitano joined Ms. Salvatoriello at the awards ceremony.

Bringing the district total to 7,316 pounds of food was Nellie F. Bennett Elementary School, whose food drive was coordinated by the school’s PTO, yielding 688 pounds of food.

 “Our school community’s extraordinary response to the Students Change Hunger challenge as well as the other charitable endeavors they’ve implemented this holiday season is a testament to the altruistic spirit that pervades Point Pleasant Borough Schools and our greater community,” said Superintendent Smith. “I commend our schools’ food drive coordinators, administrators and everyone who contributed to making the holidays a lot less hungry and a whole lot happier for so many families in our area.”

According to the FoodBank of Monmouth & Ocean Counties, hunger is steadily becoming more prevalent across New Jersey, with demand for assistance consistently increasing year after year. The state Federation of FoodBanks has said that the Students Change Hunger initiative has become one of the organization’s major food-raising programs.