Courtesy of Ms. Debbie Barr
Although Key Club is a branch of an international organization, it focuses more deeply on the Cherry Hill community than some of the other community service clubs. In trying to make an impact on the community, it volunteers at the South Jersey Food Bank and the Voorhees Pediatric Facility.
“In previous years, along with a few weeks ago, we went and played with children that are ill,” said Dylan Green (‘19), Co-President of Key Club, of his experience at the pediatric facility.
Two years ago, Key Club made decorations for the hospital and holiday cards to give to the kids.
“I reached out to the Voorhees pediatric facility they said they could use… volunteers, or decorations, [and] because it was during the holiday season we decided that decorations would be cute,” said Vivian Lu (‘19), Co-President of Key Club.
The club had a meeting where members made cards and decorations for the facility, working together to bring some holiday cheer to the kids.
“We had a lot of cardboard paper and someone brought in crafts and stuff and we had a little work meeting where we colored and made decorations and it was really nice,” said Lu.
Though they do not have any holiday-centric plans this year, they have December plans to volunteer at both the food bank and the pediatric facility.
Interact Club, whose motto is “Service Above Self,” is getting involved in multiple activities around the holidays. This is their third year as a club at East, and it will also be their third year caroling at the St. Mary’s senior citizen home on Christmas Day.
“We go Christmas caroling in St. Mary’s senior citizen home with our Rotary Club that sponsors us, the Cherry Hill Rotary Club,” said Ms. Debbie Barr (formerly Jastrow), Interact Club’s advisor. “And we hand out poinsettias to all the people who are there, and then we walk around and talk to them and sing very badly, but it’s wonderful and fun.”
Though not everyone from the club is able to make it on Christmas, those who do have a great time.
“It was just really nice to see people who sometimes don’t get many visitors, and it was nice to see people [made] happy by a small little gesture on Christmas,” said club member Spencer Levy (‘19).
In addition to caroling, this year Interact is doing a holiday card fundraiser. The proceeds will go to “adopting” a family to fulfil their holiday wish list through the Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Southern New Jersey. In order to make the cards to sell, Interact’s Fundraising Chair, Cynthia Cheng (‘20), will be teaching members how to quill. Quilling is a type of paper art in which strips of paper are rolled and glued to paper to make designs.
“These holiday cards are supposed to be pretty, and hopefully people can bring them home and share them with their parents and family members and impact their lives also,” Cheng said. “People don’t make greeting cards anymore; they just send texts, and I personally find that’s really boring… [for our fundraiser], not only are you getting a beautiful card for your family or friends, but you also get to impact other people in the community.”
Interact Club, though best known at East for selling chocolate bars, gets many students involved during the holidays.
“One of my biggest things that I want people to get out of doing… a community service club is to truly understand the spirit of giving, which is a very big holiday thing,” said Barr. “It’s about the feeling you get inside when you give to others.”
Habitat for Humanity
A couple of years ago, the Habitat for Humanity club was searching for a fundraiser it could do in the winter season. The members came up with a gingerbread house build open to the whole community. Now in its third year, the build takes place in one of the cafeterias, and it has been expanded to include a bake sale.
“There are a lot of people that come, and they come with the kids and it’s really cute and they’re building gingerbread houses to help people build [real] houses, so it’s just cute,” said Ms. Nora Smaldore, Habitat for Humanity’s advisor. “It’s just a fun afternoon.”
Last year, Habitat for Humanity and Interact Club ran the fundraiser together. They donated the almost 300 dollars of proceeds to Covenant House, a housing program for homeless teenagers. This year, the proceeds will go to offset Habitat’s trip during spring break, in which they will go to North Carolina to help build houses.
“I feel like it is easier [to fundraise during the holidays] because people are more willing to give back,” said Lauren Covert, President of Habitat for Humanity. “We take that money and put it towards our trip so that we can go help someone else.”
Students who go to a build with Habitat for Humanity either go to the ReStore or the worksite. Those under 16 are not allowed on the worksite and instead help out at the ReStore, where they do handy jobs such as building a desk or cleaning up the store. At the worksite, students get hands-on experience building a house. They are instructed on how to use power tools and get to be a part of building someone’s home.
“Habitat’s mission is [that] everyone deserves a decent place to live, so we’re just trying to make that happen,” said Smaldore.
Fraternal Order of Police
Since the mid-1980s, students from Cherry Hill High Schools East and West’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) clubs have worked together to throw a holiday party for kids with special needs. Around one thousand kids, both with and without disabilities, come together to experience a unity at the party.
“It’s an opportunity for us to… help kids that have severe mental or physical handicaps to have just a day where they’re celebrating,” said Mr. Charles Davis, the East FOP advisor. “Where we serve them, we support them; we make a fun time for them. And it allows us to view the world through a much different lens.”
The party, which has secular Christmas aspects such as Santa Claus and reindeer, is in part planned by students. Chairpeople find sponsors, make t-shirts and organize decorations.
“I [think] it’s a good way to get involved in some type of community service, one that’s also a good thing for the community and the kids in the community,” said Mikey Bellino (‘19), Overall Chairperson of the holiday party. “It’s a nice thing to do in the holiday season, [because] the holiday season gets people in the mood and gives them that spirit to help out and make people feel good.”
Though some students just get involved for a meeting or two, those that dedicate a lot of time and effort are invited to the party. Many of these students enjoy being able to dedicate a day in the holiday season to children with disabilities.
“Throughout their lives, [these children] have had issues and disabilities, so the party is to make them feel like they are welcome and that they’re not different than everybody else,” said Bellino.
Food for Thought
Food for Thought is a club that makes sandwiches to donate to Cathedral Kitchen, a food kitchen in Camden. For the holidays, Food for Thought is going to be hosting a large sandwich build and making decorations for Cathedral Kitchen.
“Over the years while volunteering, we noticed that Cathedral Kitchen will have different decorations and themes, but they sometimes don’t have enough of everything, so we thought it was a good idea to help out,” said Hoon Kim (‘19), Vice President of Food for Thought.
The club plans to make Christmas-themed table settings during a meeting. It will also make baked goods to donate in addition to the usual sandwiches.
Members of Food for Thought enjoy going to the Cathedral Kitchen, as it gives them the ability to see their impact at work.
Kim said, “I like going to Cathedral Kitchen a lot, because even though we host a lot of sandwich-making, it is a different experience [at Cathedral Kitchen when] you get to interact with the homeless people of Camden.”
This piece is a continuation from the story featured in Eastside’s December Issue.