By Nicole Greco
On Monday afternoons, there is a dedicated group of children hard at work- and somewhere between the flour and glitter, it’s clear they’re on a mission.
Shannon Prisco, of Morris Plains, leads her “Holiday Baking and Crafts for a Need” program after school through the borough’s recreation department. Each week, beginning last month and running through Dec.19, 11 kids from kindergarten to second grade follow Prisco’s baking instructions and then focus on a craft. Their work has been, and continues to brighten the spirits of many of their Morris County neighbors- young and old, humans and pets alike.
Beyond the valuable kitchen experience and art skills, Prisco says she’s most proud of the students’ life lesson in generosity.
“I think it’s important to teach kids about giving back,” she said, adding that it’s gratifying to see the group’s selflessness in sharing- even when making tempting sweets, “they know they can’t leave with it, but they are excited about giving.”
Prisco, a kindergarten teacher at Mountain Way School, approached several local non-profits to match each week’s activity. The beneficiaries are: Saint Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center, Eleventh Hour Rescue, Morris View Healthcare Center and Homeless Solutions.
Each baked good and craft is tailored to the needs of each group. For example, instead of the desserts suitable for humans, the class prepares dog treats for the canines served by the animal rescue organizations.
The process of making each craft and cookie, regardless of whether it’s for a person or pet, according to Prisco, can empower a child to be an ambassador of goodwill.
Her work, and the efforts of the children involved, are applauded by the organizations on the front lines of assisting those in the region who need access to a warm place to live and receive the specialized care they deserve.
“It’s very important that our [nursing home] residents know they are still cared for and not forgotten” said Karen Hogan, Morris View Healthcare Center recreation/volunteer director, “The gifts of treats, cards, and community interaction with the residents is a welcome treat for all.”
“Any act of giving can make an impact on someone experiencing the trauma of being homeless,” said Welsey Gaynor, Homeless Solutions director of programs and services, “A monetary donation that allows us to purchase enough milk, juice, cereal and bread to feed our shelter guests for a month has just as much of an impact to HIS as it does to a child in our shelter who smiles after eating one of Ms. Prisco’s student’s baked goods for dessert.”
Upon delivery of each cheerful decoration and confection, Prisco’s group receives heartfelt thanks.
“I think it is a terrific thing that Shannon is doing and something that the children will remember and be proud of,” said Hogan.
The adults in this story are confident that little hearts can share big joy.
“If a person is old enough to understand what it is to be given a reward, they can understand what it is to give one, said Gaynor.
The Monday afternoon merry-makers will be at it again this week, and Prisco knows these kids will take the ideals of sharing beyond the holiday season and, hopefully, throughout their lives.