By Steve Sears
“This was our fourth packing event – fifth year fundraising for Operation Shoebox NJ – we’ve raised over $12,000 and packed 1200 boxes for troops overseas,” says David Heller, Hilltop Elementary School Principal.
This year’s monies raised was $3,400.00, a record high for the school.
“Our packing event involved many volunteers including our parents and members of the Mendham Borough HSA (Home and School Association). There were also about six volunteers from Operation Shoebox NJ. We set up half of our gym with boxes: one station for toiletries (razors, soap, hand sanitizer, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc.) and another of snacks (candy, granola bars, instant oatmeal, gum, etc.). Students walk through each station and pack bags for troops.”
Heller also states, “We had many parent volunteers to assist with the event. We do receive emails from troops overseas who share their appreciation for the boxes.”
Taking part in the fundraiser was suggested a few years ago by the Character Education team, seeking to add a hands-on experience for students. After seeing packing events on the Operation Shoebox NJ website, the team thought it would be a great addition. Items and packing supplies are contributed by Operation Shoebox, and then the packing begins, the students working with their grade level peers during the project. Hilltop Elementary started in 2015 with a coin drive and, each spring since then , a coin or bill drive fundraiser is scheduled in addition to the packing event. Students pack toiletry and snack bags, which are then prepared for overseas shipment. Both students and parents write cards to the troops as well.
Following the 2018 event, Heller stated, “It’s a service-learning project we’ve been doing for several years. At first it was just a fundraising event, and this is our third year we’ve done the packing event. And students understand what they’re doing. Collecting money and sending to someone is one thing; but actually coming, packing the bags, writing the letters, putting it in, understanding what these bags are and where they’re going to and who the bags are going to, really makes it more of an impactful project, especially when you’re talking about citizenship and working with generosity, our character education pillars right now. We are trying to make kids understand more about what it means to be of good character, and how we can support others who are helping others to succeed.”
Hilltop School is a state and national School of Character. This year, the school focused on the character education pillars of perseverance, courage, respect, compassion, and responsibility. And, in a special touch, the school completed a mural in the cafeteria in the fall and honored their work with Operation Shoebox NJ with one of their boxes.
Speaking to other worthy causes his school contributes to, Heller adds, “The Hilltop Community contributes to the West Morris Junior Women’s Thanksgiving Food Drive, we lead a Coat Drive for the Market Street Mission and we donate school supplies to a sister school in Guatemala through our HSA Go Green Committee.”
Operation Shoebox NJ is located in Hillsborough. More information can be found at www.opshoeboxnj.org.