WESTFIELD – For the fourth straight year, the Westfield Food Pantry will be collecting donations of gifts for students in need at Westfield Technical and Westfield High.
The drive began on Nov. 4 and is set to run through Dec. 13 according to Food Pantry Director Rebecca Hart. She said that the Giving Drive began four years ago after Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski told the Food Pantry that there were students at Westfield Tech and Westfield High who would not be able to afford Christmas presents, and the pantry stepped right in. She said this year they will be shopping for a minimum of 50 students.
Eric Brown, the chairman of the Westfield Food Pantry, said they are looking to fulfill very basic needs. He said students are asking for everyday clothing, dress clothes and shoes for job interviews and toiletries such as soap and toothbrushes.
Hart added students create their own lists of what they want for Christmas.
“The kids make specific lists of things they would like and most of the items are basic needs,” Hart said.
Brown added that while they are accepting donations of items from the list, the food pantry is also looking for gift cards to Walmart, TJ Maxx and the Theory skate shop in the mall so they can purchase specific items.
Hart explained that in the past, students have requested hobby items like graphic novels, but this year they are asking for something to celebrate the holidays.
“A lot of the kids are interested in gingerbread house kits because they have younger siblings and they want to be able to share the holiday season doing something with them,” Brown added.
Brown said the drive has been successful in the past.
“Last year was my first year and it was amazing. We pretty much got every kid what they had asked for, so this year we are hoping for the same this year," he said.
He explained that once the drive ends on Dec. 13, they will start putting everything together for the kids. “The week of Dec. 13 is when we’re going to put together the final checklist and do the deliveries,” he said.
Hart added that any students interested in the drive should visit their school guidance office. “If you’re a student or if you have a child that’s a student that may not get Christmas presents see guidance if you are interested or have any questions,” she said.
Hart also said the Westfield Food Pantry will be partnering with Amelia Park Arena Nov. 17 for a $5 per person public skate to benefit the food pantry. She added that this is the eighth year the pantry has teamed up for a public skate with the rink and they have also worked together for canned food drives in the past.
“It makes you realize how fortunate we are on our own and as a community to be able to do this for our youth,” Brown added.