Olivia Ratner reaches her hands into a plain cardboard box and begins pulling out paper leaves by the handful. Second- and third-grade students at Temple Beth Sholom Schools designed and colored each unique leaf and inscribed each with an original, heartfelt message.
“They are for our Tree of Hope for the Salvation Army residents,” says Olivia, a third-grader. “We write notes like, ‘Be happy, you are loved,’ and ‘We care.’ Last year, some of them started to cry when they saw us.”
For the past month, students at Temple Beth Sholom Schools have been hand-crafting napkin rings — 501 to be exact — turkey centerpieces and murals that will be used to create a festive holiday décor for Salvation Army residents on Thanksgiving Day. The students have also collected blankets, clothing, baby items, toys and canned food that will provide comfort to residents.
The mitzvah — “good deed” — project is a 15-year tradition at TBS Schools that has been spearheaded by second-grade teacher Barbara O’Brien for the past eight years. This year, third-grade teacher Nancy Koplin joined the committee.
“I wanted the entire community’s involvement to help an organization that does an incredible amount of work,” O’Brien said. “The temple members donate turkeys; the parents donate TVs; the kids clean out their bedrooms and want to get rid of everything. This project teaches them to be humble and respect what they have.”
The second- and third-grade classes at TBS Schools decorated the Salvation Army’s dining room and delivered the donated items Wednesday, Nov. 24. Director of TBS Schools, Kavita Vasil, along with Flora Oynick, assistant director of Justin Lee Wiesner Preschool, cooked a pot of soup for the special occasion, and the entire school contributed to the meal: Each class baked a bread item for the Salvation Army residents to enjoy.
“Last year, it felt both happy and sad,” says third-grader Kayla Silverman. “These people had nowhere to go, and when I saw those tiny rooms they had to sleep in, I wanted to donate a bed. Once we finished decorating, I think they felt really happy. When we were leaving, me and Ms. O’Brien were crying. They were tears of joy — I couldn’t help it.”
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