FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Pupils at the C. Richard Applegate School were busy in early December collecting toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program. While the children participated in the effort, they became more aware of the needs of others.
School nurse Michele Weissman said, “We encourage our students to be good citizens. We want to raise awareness among our students that some children do not have as much as they do.”
Weissman has headed up the toy drive for 10 years. She said the toys that are collected by the students are donated to Toys for Tots and to Jewish family charities.
The toy drive began on Dec. 1 and culminated on Dec. 14 when the commandant of the Cpl. Philip A. Reynolds Detachment Marine Corps League, Michael Schwenk, of Manalapan, and U.S. Marine Pvt. John Martinho, of Raritan, picked up the toys at the school and brought them to the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Center in Shrewsbury.
Schwenk said that after the toys are delivered to the facility in Shrewsbury, they are sorted by volunteers into selections for boys and girls. Subsequent to that, individuals or organizations who are requesting toys for needy children can select toys from the “shop.”
Schwenk said the needs are so high in Monmouth County that all of the donations stay in the county.
Running concurrently with the Toys for Tots drive at the Applegate school was a food drive to benefit the Freehold Area Open Door food pantry, Weissman said.
“It is a school-wide food drive and the class which collects the most food gets to go to the food pantry and stock the shelves with all of their donations,” she said. “This is the best class trip, according to the students. They really love doing this.”
Weissman said the students “learn that not everyone can shop in a large supermarket. They learn that for some people, the one room in the food pantry is where they shop, and they soon realize that not everyone has items available to them like they do and that everyone doesn’t have 40 different brands of cereal to choose from. Maybe there are two (types of cereal).”
She said the children work hard to organize the food pantry’s shelves with the food the school has collected.
“And they realize how important what they are doing really is when they first walk in and see the bare shelves before they stock them with their food from the food drive. It gives them a good feeling to know that what they are doing is helping the community as they fill up the shelves,” Weissman said
The teachers at the school incorporate lessons about world hunger as the children work on the food drive.
“The teachers give the students statistics about world hunger, that one child in four goes to school without a meal,” Weissman said. “Then they will have 20 students in the class stand up. Out of those 20 children, the children learn in concrete terms that five children did not eat that day. This lesson hits home for them,” she said. — Contact Clare Marie Celano at firstname.lastname@example.org.