By Cheryl Conway
It has been just about 40 days since West Caldwell resident Nyree Anderson Miscia went on a mission to engage in a daily project of kindness and giving.
Tomorrow, Nov. 16, Miscia turns 40 and some celebration it will be when she looks back at all of the lives she has touched in less than six weeks. Earlier this year, “around the time that I realized I was going to be 40,” Miscia decided that she wanted to give back rather than go on a vacation or have a party.
“When you turn 40, it’s a big party or grand vacation,” says Miscia. “That didn’t’ appeal to me. I wanted something more memorable, more substantial. I wanted to do something bigger. I wanted to dig a well or build a home for Habitat For Humanity but I also have four kids and two businesses. So I scaled it down to do 40 little things.”
Her first day of giving was on Oct. 7, exactly 40 days before her birthday, and her final day was today, Nov. 15. Coming up with 40 ideas was the challenging part but with the help of Jersey Cares, Miscia filled up her calendar in no time at all. Jersey Cares connects volunteers to organizations and places she was interested in making a difference.
She started writing ideas down back in June, calling people and organizations, attending orientations and getting fingerprinted, a requirement for some of the volunteer work.
“Planning this was not an easy feat,” Miscia says on a video she posted on Facebook so people would hold her accountable for her 40 day project. “My calendar is pretty full.”
She also announced the reason behind her project.
“The truth is I’m most happy when I’m helping others,” she says in her video. “So I can throw an incredible party or go on an incredible vacation, but the truth is parties and vacations don’t impact me and my heart the same way helping someone in need does.”
Every day mattered.
She provided mobile meals through the Food Bank of New Jersey providing food to the communities in Newark and Paterson; worked in soup kitchens such as St. Ann in Newark and Hoboken Shelter Soup Kitchen and food pantries such as in East Brunswick; cleaned up a beach at Pt. Pleasant; provided child care to babies and young children at the Nurturing Center at the Oasis Haven for Women and Children in Paterson; helped out at a farm; hung out with Alzheimer patients; tutored eighth graders; spent time with veterans; assisted children with medical and physical disabilities at the Matheny School in Gladstone-Peapack; held drives for books, toys, eyeglasses, coats and shoes; sponsored a T-shirt for Tourette Syndrome Walk/Run in Bergen County; gave blood; cleaned up a cemetery; socialized with elderly; attended a fashion show fundraiser; participated in a Run For Warriors in Long Island and a Veteran’s Day ceremony.
For the drives she held, Miscia asked volunteers to drop off items at one of her businesses, Montclair Shipping in Upper Montclair. For her other business, Miscia works as a brand partner of Nerium International, an anti-aging company specializing in skin care and brain supplements.
Miscia describes one of her favorite days from her birthday project.
It was “a great day at the Hoboken Shelter when I brought my 11-year old son with me and he helped cook and serve food,” says Miscia. Now, “he wants to go back.”
Another meaningful day was on Oct. 29, which would have been her father’s birthday. He died in July 2014, but to honor him she decided to give away 40 scratch-offs at his favorite restaurant, The Bayou in Mt. Vernon.
Having a master’s degree in forensic psychology, Miscia says she “always wanted to help people. It’s an eye opening experience. There are so many different ways we can help.”
Turning 30 was a big deal, Miscia admits, but she was pregnant having had three babies in three years from the age of 28 to 32. She could have chosen a vacation or party to ring in 40, but after a “couple of hours, it’s over. This is pretty cool,” she says about her 40 days of giving. It’s really, really rewarding- every day you are celebrating.”
Miscia scheduled most of her time for giving when her kids- ages 8, 9, 11 and 18- were in school. She adjusted schedules at her store “so I can run out and do the event. Whatever the juggle is, it’s been busy days,” she admits. On weekends, her husband, Peter, would watch the kids as she planned a day of giving seven days a week, about three or four hours per day.
Every day was worth it, she says.
“I think for ourselves, for me, it feels amazing to see someone’s appreciation for what you are doing,” says Miscia. “If I were in their shoes I’d want people to help. If you are down and out and you need food or clothes, you are in a community to help you.”