Shoeboxes For The Homeless

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Shoeboxes For The Homeless

To three Cherry Hill seventh graders, the 2011 holiday season meant more than sparkling lights and gifts under a tree.  Emily DeHart (12), Emily Fleisher (12), and Zachary Bornyasz (13) turned a regular community service project into an act of kindness for the patrons at New Visions Homeless Day Shelter in Camden.    

“We just wanted to do something to help those less fortunate,” stated Emily DeHart, a student at Rosa International Middle School.  She led the way to collecting 143 shoeboxes filled with toiletries and hygiene products for homeless guests at the shelter. The young philanthropist enlisted the assistance of fellow students, Emily and Zach for a project they hoped would yield around 50 shoeboxes.  “We hoped we could make a difference with collecting some items, but never expected we would collect over 100 filled shoeboxes,” added Zach.

The students drafted letters asking for donations and delivered them to family, friends, neighbors and area businesses.  When they revisited the people they solicited – by foot, with wagon in tow – they were surprised to see that they received an overwhelming response of donations.  “It was really nice to see so many people wanted to make donations.  I was grateful that they [people we didn’t know] chose to spend their time to help us,” explains Emily Fleisher.  

Each shoebox contained: a tooth brush and toothpaste, a new pair of socks, shampoo, deodorant, a razor, hand sanitizer, soap/shower gel, comb, nutritious snack, a pair of gloves, a hat, scarf and other miscellaneous items they could use.

Emily’s mother, Susan DeHart, shares, “The response from the community in both donations and affirmations to the project was overwhelming!  The kids really enjoyed doing the project and are already talking about doing this again next year– brainstorming how to get even more donations.”  Emily also noted that she was touched by all the notes she received on the donated items, from people thanking her for what she was doing to help those in need.

Each of the three young adults had a sparkle in their eye as they discussed plans for their future charitable acts.  Rice Krispie® heart-shaped treats for local nursing home residents; working with developmentally disabled children over the summer so they have a head start with learning before the school year; and, of course, collecting more shoeboxes for the homeless again next year.

These inspirational students are clearly future leaders, ready to carve their mark in the world — one shoebox at a time.  Thanks so much for your support, Emily D, Emily F & Zach.  Great work!


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