Students at the Lower School at Far Brook have been at it again. For three years running, the classes have put together small care packages that include a pair of mittens or socks, a packet of hot cocoa and a handwritten note. Paula Levin, Director of the Lower School, relishes the effort that the boys and girls put into this project. The students know that they're helping kids their age by providing basic items along with encouraging words. And with the recent snowfall in Essex County we know that IHN children will appreciate having what they need to stay warm.
For Corbin Berry, giving back to the community comes naturally. He’s watched his father, David, help IHN for as long as he can remember. So when it was time to choose an Eagle Scout Project he looked no further than IHN. The requirements for a project were that it had to benefit the community while demonstrating his skills as a leader.
After tossing around some ideas with IHN staff, Corbin grabbed hold of the opportunity to provide renovations to a 4-family house where families from IHN’s Shelter Program live. He visited the house to determine the scope of the project and decided to renovate portions of it by painting interior walls and exterior ties on the outside, replacing two stone steps on the back porch, improving the inside hallway, and landscaping the front yard.
Corbin depended on help from his family (especially his dad!) and volunteers in his troop. To raise more than the $1,000 needed to purchase all the necessary supplies, he appealed to shoppers outside of Kings in Maplewood Village, members of the Maplewood Rotary and his church, Wyoming Presbyterian.
Now that the project has been completed, Corbin not only has the satisfaction of a job well done and a completed Eagle Scout Project, but, more importantly, the appreciation that the families showed him. He says, “(they) showed a lot of gratitude towards my effort. It's really something I will always remember."
Every year, elementary-aged students at the Montessori Children’s Academy of Short Hills vote on a charity that they’d like to support and this year IHN received the honor.
Their project involved conducting a drive for children’s hats, gloves, and gently used coats. What was special about the Academy’s involvement is that they wove the project throughout their curriculum so the children were able to experience every facet of the drive.
Besides choosing the charity, during computer class the children designed the posters, flyers and promotional materials they would need to procure donations. Further, the students collected fabric, made patterns and sewed drawstring bags used to package the goods. Lastly, they learned about assembly lines and used the lesson to sort the hats, gloves, and mittens, package them in the bags and distribute the donations.
According to the elementary teachers, "When the students were choosing a community service project in the fall they felt that collecting hats, scarves, gloves, and other clothing items for the Interfaith Hospitality Network was very important, so people could keep warm. They were glad they picked this project because of the extremely cold winter we had this year. They were very proud of what they accomplished and how many people they helped."
IHN has distributed many of these darling bags to children in our Emergency Shelter and Home for Good Programs. They’re thankful to have what they need to keep warm as they go to school each day.
It’s a wonderful thing that each of us possesses varied talents and gifts. And it becomes a blessing when those talents are used for good.
That’s how it is with Jeremy and Maya Stepansky. When it was time for them to formulate plans for their mitzvah project, their thoughts turned to what they enjoyed most: making music. As instrumentalists, song writers, and singers, the twins envisioned recording a CD to benefit homelessness, a cause close to their heart.
Having volunteered numerous times for Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County (IHN) by serving meals and playing with the children, the Stepanskys understand that family homelessness is a reality that plays out right in their own community.
It came to be, then, that Jeremy and Maya chose the songs to include on the CD, some of which they wrote. From November 2011 to March 2012, they recorded all of the tracks in their living room-turned-recording studio. From start to finish, it is a thoroughly Jeremy and Maya production as they played all of the instruments, sang the vocals, designed the cover, produced, and even arranged every song.
Aptly titled "Notes from Home," Jeremy and Maya are now distributing the CDs in exchange for donations of $15 or more to Interfaith Hospitality Network (and also to the International Rescue Committee for their work with displaced people), with the goal of raising $2,500 for each organization. They will gladly accept donation checks made out to IHN (and/or IRC).
Please mail donations to them at 172 Summit Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07043; a CD will be sent for every donation received. Orders and inquiries can also be sent to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeremy and Maya say they hope their "living room project" will lead to more living rooms for others. IHN couldn’t agree more.