All nine Livingston Public Schools, along with Kushner Hebrew Academy, Aquinas Academy and many local Livingston businesses, participated in Friday’s Stuff the Bus for CHOW and Ventnor, NJ. It was unlike any community service event that ever previously occurred.
While students and schools in Livingston are always doing wonderful things for their community, never has the town had all nine schools participating in one sole project, let alone connect with private schools, local businesses and the township.
Livingston Public Schools wanted to make a real impact and by unifying many smaller collection efforts in the town and schools, Stuff the Bus was able to serve as a direct way to help a community in need in a big way. This collaborative approach maximized impact and strengthened partnerships.
And even though the event connected all nine schools, each school made it their own. For example, at Collins Elementary School, the first and third grade students had an assembly where they talked about the importance of helping others and they heard their Principal, John Leister, rap about Stuff the Bus. While creating excitement, he reminded students that helping others was something they need to do everyday in big and small ways. Then each student carried items onto the bus for a true hands-on service project.
At MPE, the entire Kindergarten came out to cheer on the school student council along with many others as they stuffed the bus while proudly unveiling the new “MPE Makes a Difference” logo in banner form. Harrison elementary students walked box after box out of the school and one student called a local radio station to report about the day’s events.
The Hillside Safety Patrol carried out many boxes of supplies while students watched en route to recess. At Burnet Hill, Riker Hill, Mount Pleasant Middle School and Heritage, the student councils carried out box after box of much needed donations.
At Livingston High School every service organization got behind the drive and created a week of activities that included “Can the Principal Day” and “Buy a Song Day.” The principal, Mark Stern was nearly trapped in his office with all of the canned goods and the administrators helped raise over $700 by singing, “Build me up Buttercup,” for the entire school on LTV.
At all of the schools the kids seemed very proud that they were able to help. “I love helping others,” a boy told us at Burnet Hill Elementary School.
Administration also pitched in with a stop at the Central Office building. Superintendant Dr. Brad Draeger, along with other administrators and office support, were inspired by their students and they followed with boxes of donations.
Involvement was seen all through town. Temple Beth Shalom Preschool, Little Learners Academy and the learning Experience participated in their second Stuff the Bus event. Temple Beth Shalom collected boxes and boxes of healthy food items while Little Learners collected cleaning supplies.
Brownie Girl Scout Troop 20215 made placemats, which were nicely wrapped with messages of hope. Livingston’s Robotics Club ran a Landroids’ “Warm Nights, Warm Heart” fundraising effort for Stuff the Bus and they collected $1,125 worth of sleeping bags and comforters. These included purchases made from the cash donations from Livingston Robotics Club teams and a New Mexico FTC team; and merchandise donations from REI and Bed Bath & Beyond from East Hanover, plus discounts from Dicks and Sports Authority on the purchases.
Businesses made Livingston proud.
Brown & Brown Benefit Advisors donated over $350 in gift cards while the Westminster Hotel donated towels and sheets in addition to collecting boxes and boxes of supplies and food donated by employees and guests. One guest even donated a new stroller.
Kings and Shoprite encouraged donations and showed their support. Eastman companies collected at 6 sites and provided access to the vacated Blockbuster store to house donations. Schneck Law firm; Regal bank; Kids at Heart; Northfield Baptist Church, The West Essex Tribune office all ran collections. Unico, a service organization, gave $300 for toys to be purchased. AARP gave $300 for one family.
The West Essex YMCA and the Township at the library, community center & town hall locations had tremendous results through their collections. In fact, the Red Cross upon hearing of the Stuff the Bus campaign from Helen Flores, director of the West Essex YMCA, delivered merchandise to the YMCA to help stuff the bus in order to help them distribute much needed product to those hardest hit areas.
Special thanks to Kiwanis, Sunrise Rotary, the Landriods and the Livingston Soccer Club who showed up at Blockbuster to help with loading the bus. In addition, residents just kept pulling up to the bus and handing off donations. It was a true collaboration that proved to bring new meaning to the words community service.