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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

Boxes of Kindness

Introduction by Jennifer Ersalesi

By Kelly Lancaster, English Teacher and RHS National Honor Society Advisor

Photo credits: Kelly Lancaster

Each year RHS National Honor Society students at Rutherford High School coordinate a Box of Kindness Collection. This project has taken off in the last few years and has extended throughout the Rutherford community, as well as other communities in New Jersey. One of the RHS National Honor Society Advisors, Kelly Lancaster, provided more information about this community service project.

The Box of Kindness Collection began as a high school event, and as Rutherford is known for doing, enthusiasm spread and it quickly became a district-wide and community-centered event. Each RHS National Honor Society student, under the guidance of Debbie DeLia and Kelly Lancaster, and members of the Union Middle School Service Club, under the guidance of Francesca Mastropierro, will be contributing a box to this collection. Other club members, faculty and staff members, Girl Scout and Scout members, and family, friends, and community members also actively participate. Students and community members from Westwood, under the supervision of Corrie Kemple, and students and community members from Lyndhurst, under the supervision of Melissa Mule are also once again participating in this collection. Last year alone, both districts collected more than 150 boxes.

A few years ago, I was asked if my daughter’s Girl Scout troop would be interested in collecting stuffed shoeboxes for K - 8 students in a Paterson school. In 2018, students in the RHS Happiness Through Mindfulness elective were discussing the benefits for all involved when helping other people and participating in community service projects. The topic of collecting stuffed shoeboxes for students at the Paterson school was discussed and the RHS students ran with it. After emailing Mr. Morano and quickly receiving his approval, it was agreed upon that the collection would center around middle school students in Newark.

In 2018, the first year the NHS started the collection at RHS, there were approximately 220 boxes collected for students in 3 Newark schools. In 2019, with the help of other districts, the number of boxes increased to 334. In 2020, after facing multiple obstacles in the way from COVID and only being able to deliver the boxes to 2 of the 3 schools, approximately 420 were collected.

Below you will find commonly asked questions about Boxes of Kindness.

Who are the shoeboxes for?

RHS students decided that middle school students, grades 6 - 8, should receive the shoeboxes. RHS students discussed the fact that more often than not, students in grades 6 - 8, although unintentionally, do not always receive as much attention as younger children. An email was then sent out to numerous schools in Newark asking if any would be interested in receiving stuffed shoeboxes for their students. Multiple schools gratefully responded. Members of the RHS NHS will be delivering the shoeboxes to the middle school students at Lafayette Street Elementary School, Avon Avenue Elementary School, and Abington Avenue Elementary School on Friday, December 17.

Can you describe what can be found inside the shoeboxes?

We also ways tell those interested in participating to start with basic life necessities, such as personal care items (deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, hair accessories, lip balms), any winter gear (gloves, hats, scarves, socks), school supplies, books, journals, sports cards, a deck of cards or card games, or magazines.

Why is this an important community service project for RHS students and members of the community to participate in during the holidays?

This experience demonstrates the good that we can all do to help others. It is difficult to articulate the benefits, but no one has ever regretted participating. It is not uncommon for this collection to receive more boxes than anticipated. When dropping off their boxes, many contributors, with a large smile of love and joy, explain that they have a few more boxes than they originally planned to contribute. They explain that the happiness and the feeling of doing good for others led them to gather and purchase more than originally planned.

Social-Emotional Learning is one of our district goals, and this experience has clearly been an asset to our district. While academic growth is essential to success, social-emotional health is equally important. This experience offers all participants an opportunity to have a positive effect on a child and themselves.

If anyone is interested in donating a box of kindness, contact Kelly Lancaster at

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