FAIR HAVEN SNOW ANGELS COME OUT IN FORCE

20140114_154000What happened to the snow? Must be the work of Snow Angels — such as Knollwood seventh-grader Emma DeSantis, who recently assisted Nancy Drake with snow removal as part of Fair Haven’s “Be A Good Neighbor” program.

Press release from Fair Haven School District

Traditional snow angels are created when exuberant youths jump into freshly fallen snow and leave behind the image of a heavenly creature.

Snow angels of a different kind abound in Fair Haven, and these real-life angels are also found after a snowfall. The snow angels of Fair Haven, however, are students wielding shovels.

Over 70 students at Knollwood School in Fair Haven are currently enrolled in the Be A Good Neighbor (BAGN) Program, which was initiated eight years ago by then-Mayor Joe Szostak to assist senior citizens with snow removal.

Thanks to community volunteers who currently administer the program, and the help of students in sixth through eighth grade, the sight of falling snow no longer creates anxiety on the part of local participating seniors. The program also eases worry for the seniors’ grown children, who often live too far away to assist them after a snowfall.

“My mom Nancy Drake was shoveling her front walk when along came a delightful young lady, Emma DeSantis, who said that she was assigned to assist my mom,” said Robin Drake Fitch. “Emma finished shoveling the walk and also cleared a path to the garage.”

“Living two hours away and buried under two feet of snow myself,  I was so grateful to know that mom lives in Fair Haven with angels disguised as good neighbors,” Fitch added.

J.R. Drake, who resides in Amsterdam, concurs with his sister.

“I see the weather map hours before the snow will reach New Jersey, and I would not be able to sleep at night if I thought that my mom would be shoveling the next day,” said Drake. “Knowing that she can rely on the Be A Good Neighbor Program is a great relief.”

Crucial to the success of the program is Knollwood Health Teacher Byron Williams, who presents information about the program to students and distributes and collects the sign-up sheets and permission slips.

Ruth Blaser, who has been a volunteer with the Be A Good Neighbor Program since its inception, acts as the liaison between Williams and the Be A Good Neighbor Committee.

Program Administrator Susan Blackwood communicates with the volunteering students and their families, and also assigns students to participating seniors.This year, over 40 seniors signed up and were matched with students.

Blaser says that the long-running Be A Good Neighbor Program provides an invaluable service to area residents.

“It’s wonderful for the seniors, some of whom would not be able to stay in their homes without the help of the students in the program,” said Blaser. “And for the students, it provides a community service opportunity as well as a chance to get to know their neighbors.”

At the end of the winter season, the seniors organize and attend a pizza luncheon for participating students. Nancy Drake looks forward to spending some quality time with her “Snow Angel” at the pizza luncheon.

“Emma has been so kind and helpful to me,” said Drake of the Knollwood School seventh grader, daughter of Lisa and David of fair Haven.”I guess sometimes it pays to be the ‘little old lady’ of the block.”

All of the participating students will also receive a Certificate of Appreciation from Fair Haven Mayor Benjamin Lucarelli at the end of the school year.

“Emma’s and Mrs. Drake’s story is one of more than a few that I have heard during two years of working with the program,” said Blackwood. “It’s always nice to hear positive stories about people caring for other people, but even nicer that it is happening in our own community.”