09 Feb

Third Graders Making a Difference: Giving of ourselves to the Bergen Family Center and St. Joseph’s School for the Blind

Contributed by Michelle Sussmann and Roni Kanter

“Last night I dreamed about helping someone,” reported one third grader on the morning of our Third Graders Making a Difference trip.  Each month third graders work on a project that is carefully chosen to help different groups of people both near and far.  Equally important, the work is done by the children so that the amount of effort they put in is a direct correlation to the amount of difference they make.  January’s project was unique in that it provided an opportunity for third graders to truly participate in every part of the process – from start to finish.

As we do each month, we kicked off this project by gathering as a grade.  Together we listened to Ben Harper’s “With My Own Two Hands.”  The song begins with “I can change the world – with my own two hands.  Make it a better place – with my own two hands.  Make a kinder place – with my own two hands.”  Students immediately got the message that they would be working with their hands.  Students then learned that this month they would be helping The Bergen Family Center, a wonderful place right here in Englewood, that helps infants through senior citizens in so many ways.

With the support of the families, students spent two weeks “working” at home, doing certain extra chores and helping their families.  The more they worked, the more they got paid.  At the end of the two weeks, they were paid their wages, then they had a week to shop for specific items that the BFC needs.  Students were encouraged to shop with their parents, giving them a sense of the cost of the items and how much their money could buy.  Next the items were brought to school.  When they arrived, one student remarked that she was surprised by how they much they had collected.  Finally, on January 29th, students loaded the bus with their items and personally delivered them to the Bergen Family Center.

Bergen Family Center is a not-for-profit center in Englewood that serves families in need by working with people ranging in age from four months old to senior citizens. Once at the Center, third graders toured the facility so they could see first-hand where their hard-earned items would be going and exactly who they would be helping.  After completing the tour, one student said, “I thought it was amazing that they were able to grow this whole place with most people not even paying to go.”  Another student remarked, “I felt proud because we had so much to bring.”

So often when we make a donation or help a charity, our money is sent off, and we never truly get to see where it is going.  It is a rare and special opportunity when we can see, first hand, where our donation goes.  Third graders are lucky to have this opportunity twice this year.  During the month of February, not only did we take a trip to the Bergen Family Center, we also took a trip to St. Joseph’s School for the Blind in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Our students were able to tour the school and meet the amazing students of St. Joseph’s School.  They were also able to see some of the purchases that the school has been able to make thanks to our year-round “Box Tops for Education” collection.  Each experience seemed to have great impact on the students.   Several students said they want to continue to help these wonderful organizations in the future. This is precisely our goal, which is to foster a lifelong love of giving back and making a difference.