By Dawn M. Chiossi
In a district wide event, the students of Caldwell schools continued to
make a difference in the lives of others.
On April 28 they enthusiastically participated in their first ever Habitat
for Humanity wall build project.
Shelter, home, security, love, and nurture: These are all words that can
describe a house and home. Having a house isn’t something people in
general think about much, until they cannot afford one.
More than 125 students and staff swarmed to James Caldwell High
School to construct the four walls of a house that is slated to go to a
mother named Vanessa and her four year old son from Ocean County.
For months, the students of Caldwell have been eagerly putting their
spirit into the project, and this is only the first phase of this remarkable
act of kindness.
Thanks to their deep caring, infectious enthusiasm, and determination.
they raised $6,198 for this great cause, exceeding their goal of $3,500.
Habitat for Humanity is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing
affordable housing to those in need.
Jeannie Gerdy, second grade teacher at Washington Elementary School,
and one of the visionaries and facilitators of this event, states that the
Habitat for Humanity Organization is a “hand up, not a hand out.” In
fact, it is something that goes full circle: For every person that profits
from the organization, they also have a responsibility to pay it forward.
Gerdy explains that whoever receives a house from Habitat for
Humanity also has to give back to the organization as well in some way.
Some help build homes for others, some work in the office, some work
behind the scenes.
Gerdy is so enthusiastic regarding helping others obtain homes, she
tells that Habitat for Humanity is a cause that is close to her heart.
Involved with Habitat for Humanity along with her brother Tom Gerdy
and a number of volunteers, for approximately 10 years, she
affectionately refers to their participation as “The Habitat Road Trip
Crazies.” Originally there was a core group of six.
And thanks to the efforts of these amazing people, they can put up
their walls in the span of a weekend.
She mentions that the idea for the Caldwell Students to get involved
with the organization was a year in the making, and one that everyone
couldn’t wait to get started on.
“Everyone just jumped on board,” Gerdy shares.
That excitement even extended to those in the elementary schools, to
the middle schools and the high school, everyone seemed to want to
raise funds giving their helping hands to this wonderful cause. Suddenly
this core group of six extended to many, many more.
So many in Caldwell made donations, put their names and caring
messages for the family on the wall studs, and participated in any way
Businesses and organizations additionally got involved as well, making
it a real community affair.
“I was blown away by the support we received from the community,”
says Bridgit Giampapa, JCHS Habitat for Humanity Faculty advisor at
James Caldwell High School. She was so appreciative of that support;
she goes on to say, “We received very generous donations by various
clubs and organizations. It was truly a district wide effort to make this
The Habitat for Humanity project was so popular; they are excited to do
it again next year. “The other advisors and I are thrilled by the immense
response from the student body,” she praises.
These students were laughing and joking, and putting their all into this
Gerdy praises the hard working student workers effusively: “These kids
were so amazing that by 10:30 they had two walls up and by noon all
four walls were. The internal walls went up after lunch.”
When asked what her favorite moment of the whole wall build event
was, Gerdy mentions everyone’s passion to help with the Habitat for
Humanity project. Describing how they fumbled with attempts at first,
she enthuses, “When the first group of student workers finally got the
nail in, there was a proud collective cheer from everyone! At the end of
the project, we hang a flag for a flag raise, a symbol of a job well done.
One of the students was elated to work on the bracket to hang that