Irvington Pride nourishes minds, bodies and souls

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By Lauren Greenfield

What better than to help the community in which you work? Combine it with teachable moments for your students! On November 20, 2021, the Irvington Education Association (IEA) held its third citywide food distribution event.

This was a Pride in Public Education event hosted by the IEA with support from the Irvington School District. NJEA Pride grant money was used to distribute groceries to 140 families in Irvington Township. As President of IEA Pride, I have worked closely with the Newark Village ShopRite to purchase large quantities of fresh produce and staples to donate.

Among the items the families received were five-pound bags of apples, onions and potatoes as well as frozen turkey breasts, a dozen eggs, paper items, butter, oil and enough stable groceries to make many full meals.

Organizing this event was an even bigger task this time around, as we also added a pop-up vaccination clinic.

Community teaching

How would we go about organizing this arduous task? Working at Irvington has made things much easier this year. The Community Education Program (CBI), Life Endeavors, of which I am a co-teacher, worked closely with the IEA to ensure the success of the event. The students, aged 18 to 21, visited the IEA offices during the school day for a job instruction mission. There they were able to sort, bag and organize the whole event.

“It was great to see the students learning while helping,” said IEA President Michael Byock. “They helped make this event a success.”

“The students were so excited to give back to the teachers and the community who gave them so much,” said Kimberly Petcos, CBI program manager. “When Lauren and I were talking about the event, we both looked at our students and immediately thought of asking if they would like to participate and learn how it works. They all volunteered there and learned what it was all about. It was great to work in this field alongside our students knowing that we were making a difference together. »

Petcos noted that each student took charge of packing specific goods and worked as a team to organize the bags that were going to be distributed. One of the students also came to work more on the day of the event.

“I felt like I was making a difference,” said student Altereek Crawford. “There was a lot of food to pack and I was happy to be able to help my teachers do the work. I went out on Saturday because I enjoy being with my teachers and learning life skills to make me a better person. It was an amazing feeling to distribute the food when my neighbors arrived.

“As an Irvington resident and Irvington alumnus, it’s always great to see everyone giving back, especially when it comes to my students,” said CBI job coach Cynthia Roth. .

“I think this was a great opportunity for our students, and I know they look forward to more opportunities to work with the IEA and the community at large,” said Justin Bonds, also a coach at employment in the CBI program.

Bonds is also an Irvington resident who, along with his family, attended the event and was able to receive his COVID shots and groceries.

Create a healthy community together

In addition to food, more than 80 vaccines were administered that day, including 24 children newly eligible to receive one. It was another step to help create a healthy community.

Coordinating such a large and important community wellness event required a great deal of planning, preparation and cooperation among many people and organizations. However, thanks to the dedication, professionalism and willingness to participate of so many people, 140 families were able to breathe a little easier without worrying about dealing with food insecurity during the start of the holiday season, and more than 80 people are one layer safer from contracting COVID.

From the IEA and Life Endeavors, 140 Irvington families received apples, onions and potatoes as well as frozen turkey breasts, a dozen eggs, paper goods, butter, oil and enough stable groceries to make many full meals.

Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss visited the event and sent a film crew to film the incredible day of camaraderie and community support.

NJEA Vice President Steve Beatty rolled up his sleeves and did all the odd jobs needed.

“It’s a great event to get the community to get food and vaccines,” Beatty said. “It’s a fantastic event. Michael and Lauren, all the people here, are great at it, and they know what it means to be part of the community, and we’re really proud of them.

The whole day was well orchestrated and they created a spirit of camaraderie between the community, IEA members and the New Jersey Department of Health.

In these uncertain times, being able to work with so many different people towards this kind of positive outcome has not only nurtured the community, but also nurtured the souls of everyone involved. And after all, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Lauren Greenfield is a special education teacher at Irvington High School in Irvington. She is Treasurer and Pride Chair of the Irvington Education Association and Chair of the NJEA Editorial Board. Greenfield can be reached at [email protected]

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