Pictured above with a mountain of donated gifts from Red Bank Regional staff and parents are (left to right) BUC Backer member Judy Noglows, RBR SOURCE Youth Development Specialist Lori Lopez, SOURCE Liaison Claire Harbeck Izzo, and SOURCE Director Suzanne Keller. Below, RBR teacher Cassandra Dorn displays some of the many presents collected by staffers and students for the Tinton Falls nonprofit Linkages.
The Red Bank Regional (RBR) School District conducts numerous community service activities during the holidays, from helping homeless families in Monmouth County, buying livestock to address world hunger, creating holiday cards for kids in hospitals and sending stockings stuffed with sweets to our troops in the Middle East.
But at the same time they also look inward — and through a partnership between the in-school program The SOURCE and the BUC Backer Foundation, RBR helps fill wishes for families within our own school who would otherwise not know such happy holidays.
RBR Spanish teacher Lisa Boyle and her National Spanish Honor Society students joined forces this year with RBR French teacher Gil Thomas’s French National Honor Society students, to stuff stockings filled with sweet treats for the troops. Thirty stockings are on route to the Middle East for fellow New Jerseyan Chris Wutsch’s army unit in Qatar.
“For years, we would learn about families in need, either from our own students using the SOURCE services, guidance counselors, our teachers and community members,” SOURCE Director Susan Keller states. “Our clinicians would gather the wish list for all members of the families, and donation requests were hung on a holiday decorated ‘Giving Tree’ for donors to fulfill.”
Two years ago, the RBR BUC Backer Foundation joined forces with the SOURCE staff to help administer the program and grow it exponentially. The Foundation’s SOURCE liaison Claire Harbeck Izzo brought the program virtual with Sign-Up Genius, which effortlessly allowed people to sign-up for gifts they would buy.
The sign-up was managed through the Foundation’s website, Constant Contact account, Facebook page, and RBR internal emails. The results speak for themselves: mountains of gifts, dedicated to 26 local families — all of them personally shopped for and wrapped by RBR parents and staff.
As Claire Harbeck Izzo points out, “The privacy of the SOURCE has never been compromised, as we (the foundation) have no idea who will be receiving the gifts.”
Suzanne Keller adds, “The partnership works wonderfully as our goal is the same, to meet the needs of RBR students and families and take care of our own.”
In a continuation of an effort first established a decade ago (and coordinated by English teacher Cassandra Dorn), the RBR community has once more brightened the holiday season for the families of Linkages, the organization in Tinton Falls that houses homeless parents and their children.
“So many members of our RBR family participate in the Linkages program as part of their regular holiday gift-giving,” explains Dorn. “We supply the first name and age of a child and their wish list, and our staff members and students ‘adopt’ the children and families and go holiday shopping.
“This year, 58 children in 29 families will directly benefit from the generosity of the RBR community.”
For several weeks in December, a stream of gifts flows in and out of the RBR English office. Several teachers and Honor Society advisors organize their classes and groups to adopt families; this year, students in the Spanish and French Honor Societies also put together nearly 30 stockings filled with candy to sweeten the holiday for each unit at Linkages. Ms. Dorn and her father have made it their own special holiday tradition to fill their cars and transport this largess to Linkages two or three days before Christmas.
“During the holiday season, many people look for opportunities to give to the less fortunate,” she comments. “Shopping for a child’s wish list can be more personal and gratifying than making an anonymous donation. Each year, the RBR family seems to embrace that special feeling of goodwill, and 2016 has proven no exception.
“To borrow a famous movie line, we’re going to need some bigger cars.”