By Sophia Kim
As 2020 comes to a close, we are all looking for some holiday cheer to raise our spirits after such an exhausting year. Amid efforts to distract ourselves from the suffering that surrounds us and the boredom that overwhelms us, it can be difficult to shift our focus away from ourselves.
However, this year more than ever, it is important that we try to build each other up and help others in our community. You may be wondering, How can I help my community in the middle of a pandemic? It certainly can be a challenge to find ways to help out when it is unsafe to leave our homes. Nevertheless, many CRN students have found ways to brighten our community through volunteer work.
One local community service organization called SHARE, or Students Helping Area Residents Effectively, recently worked with Urban Promise Trenton (UPT) to create a gift drive for children living in low-income households in Trenton, New Jersey.
SHARE is made up of CRN students and is led by parent advisors. The organization partners with UPT each year around the holiday season to provide Trenton children with gifts of their choice.
CRN junior Megan Moriarty recently took part in this volunteer work. Moriarty helped organize the gift drive this year alongside other students, advisors, and UPT advisors. She enjoys contributing to this event each year:
“I have always loved to see how CRN kids really put a lot of effort into the gifts. It was nice to see how some students would buy multiple gifts for only one kid, especially in a year like this and especially when these are likely the only gifts the UPT kids will get for the holidays.”
SHARE organizes volunteer work all year round; the organization puts together many events and projects throughout the year that serve our local community. In addition to Urban Promise Trenton, SHARE often works with Langhorne Gardens Health and Rehabilitation Center, a nursing home in our area.
The Jewish Community Club is another local service group that comprises CRN students. In cooperation with The Friendship Circle of Newtown and CTeen of Bucks County, the club organizes volunteer work aimed at supporting the local Jewish community and works to inform students about Jewish culture and history.
Club President and North junior Claire Pave is currently organizing a project that will distribute food baskets to seven local families. Pave expressed that the value in participating in the club’s projects is that students are given the opportunity to help and become connected with people they have never met:
“I have never met these families, however I will help them get through this difficult time by providing them with food.” The Jewish Community Club is open to all students regardless of religion, which demonstrates that “despite people’s differences, they may still unite under the common cause of charity.”
During the lockdown, CRN junior Logan Saifer participated in community service in the Philadelphia area. He volunteered for a Philadelphia chapter of the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Under normal circumstances, the organization would work to provide housing for the families of children staying at local hospitals; however, due to the pandemic and the many job losses that resulted, the organization began to focus instead on delivering food to those in need in Philadelphia.
Each time he volunteered, Saifer would pick up about 750 prepackaged boxes of food from the Ronald McDonald House, load them into a van, and deliver the boxes to various locations around the city. The experience was fulfilling and eye-opening for Saifer as he made a positive impact on the Philadelphia community.
“[The experience] made me realize how fortunate I was...because I could see all of the less fortunate people and how much they were struggling due to the pandemic.”
Similarly, North junior Avery McLaughlin also volunteered for a Philadelphia-based organization to deliver prepared food to those in need. McLaughlin volunteered her time to Caring for Friends, an organization that provides food and prepared meals specifically to senior citizens who are not able to leave their homes or cannot financially support themselves.
McLaughlin assembled meal trays that would later be frozen for delivery. She also collected and packed donated food from around the community that would be delivered to the organization’s warehouse. The experience evoked mixed feelings in McLaughlin. She was shocked to see the number of seniors that struggled to eat on a daily basis, but was inspired by the dedication of those who made the meals each week.
McLaughlin remembered, “When we brought the boxes and boxes of meals made by people in our area to the warehouse each week, I felt so happy hearing the large numbers of meals donated.” McLaughlin’s experience shows us that in a time when we are inclined to think of ourselves, reaching out to others can bring out unexpected joy in our lives.
It is inspiring and so extremely admirable to hear about the work that my fellow classmates have done to support our community in such dark times. However, we sometimes forget that all community service makes a difference, no matter how big or small the process is. A fellow classmate and friend described her recent experience writing cards for sick children and senior citizens. Her local church sent the cards to various hospitals and nursing homes in the area. It is important to remember that even this at-home activity can mean so much to the people on the receiving end. In a time when we can barely see each other face-to-face, any act of kindness goes a long way.