Donations, letters provide some ‘happiness’ for the homeless

More than 2,500 items were collected as part of the Happy Bag project at Samsel Upper Elementary School in Sayreville. Students packaged donations with inspirational letters to help the homeless and others in need.

SAYREVILLE – Thanks to a campaign created by a fifth grade pupil in Sayreville, a collection of 2,500 items will be donated to help the homeless and other people in need.

Edward Ott, a fifth grader at Samsel Upper Elementary School (SUES), created the “Happy Bag” campaign to help the homeless. He collected and packaged items such as non-perishable food and hygiene products for a recipient in need. Each bag also contains a letter with a positive message for the recipient, written by the pupil who assembled the bag.

On May 29, fourth and fifth grade student ambassadors, who were selected to represent their classrooms, assembled the collected items into 253 bags with their letters, according to teacher Gineen Morosco.

According to Morosco, the bags will be donated to a homeless shelter in New Brunswick. Collected items that were too large to be placed in bags will be donated to a food pantry and the non-profit Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick, which is dedicated to providing food for those in need.

Classrooms were combined into teams and, according to Morosco, the top four teams who collected the most items were rewarded with a pizza party. The student ambassadors also received t-shirts for assembling the bags and writing positive letters.

Edward said his inspiration for the Happy Bag campaign stemmed from seeing a homeless man in New York City whose nose had been burned off in a fire, prompting the young boy to help him.

“It made by day and it made his day,” Edward said.

The experience also made Edward want to provide assistance to more individuals who did not have homes.

“I saw that this isn’t right,” he said. “I need to do something.”

In addition to assembling bags of donated items, Edward also came up with the idea of including the letters, which are all prefaced with the message “Dear Friend.” Edward said he incorporated the letters to make the recipient’s day better and add a more personal touch to the donations, demonstrating that the donations were coming from children who really cared about helping others.

Following conversations with school administrators, Edward’s Happy Bag campaign was implemented at SUES for this school year, with many of his classmates participating.

“I was so excited when I saw people at my school donating,” he said.

Morosco also took away a positive experience from the Happy Bag campaign.

“I was inspired,” she said. “I watched this Happy Bag campaign evolve from the voice of one child seeing a need in society, to witnessing our Samsel school ambassadors rush into action crusading for this cause, to ultimately having our school community embrace it wholeheartedly by donating more than we could have ever imagined. And I felt personally touched knowing that we had a part in these students creating a real-world connection that will have a positive impact on them for a very long time.”

Contact Matthew Sockol at [email protected].