Many communities, including the Town of Fairfield, encourage residents to perform acts of kindness on and around December 14, the anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy. Last month, this call for kindness resonated loud and clear with a group of sixth graders from Newtown’s Reed Intermediate School. As part of a community that suffered tremendous loss just four years ago, and has been the recipient of so much goodwill and an outpouring of support since then, these students looked upon Operation Hope of Fairfield as an opportunity to pay forward the kindness they have experienced and honor the memory of those lost that day.
Each year, Reed Intermediate students participate in a day of service. Activities take many forms, such as knitting baby blankets for the NICU, preparing sandwiches for local homeless shelters and making care packages for international refugees. This year, the students wanted to have an immediate impact on the lives of those who are most vulnerable during the cold winter months. Seeking a local organization that fit the bill, they discovered Operation Hope, and after researching operationhopect.org, the students determined Operation Hope’s clients’ greatest immediate needs that could be fulfilled by volunteer groups.
The students, whose two classes make up the “Finiford Cluster,” as named after their teachers, Stephanie Fink and Todd Stentiford, collected, sorted and inventoried 1,117 items including cold weather wear, toiletries, household cleaning items and canned goods. While they are separate classrooms, the two classes collaborate frequently and often remove the wall between the their rooms. The classes visited Operation Hope’s Food Pantry to help sort their donations and learn more about the organization. With the help of dedicated volunteers and a myriad of donations, Operation Hope’s Food Pantry provides at least 130,000 meals a year to over 600 local households struggling to make ends meet.
Teacher Todd Stentiford remarked, “The experience was moving for the students and teachers involved because it demonstrated the poignancy of giving back and ‘paying it forward,’ as was the students’ goal. We look forward to growing our relationship with Operation Hope.”
“Thank you for partnering with us, welcoming us, educating us more deeply about our area’s populations of need and helping us better understand what it means to serve our fellow man,” teacher Stephanie Fink commented in a letter to Operation Hope after the students’ visit to the Food Pantry.
“The compassion and generosity demonstrated by the students and teachers of Reed Intermediate School’s Finiford Cluster means so much to our clients, especially during the cold winter months,” said Carla Miklos, Executive Director, Operation Hope. “With continued state budget cuts and the requirement we serve the same number of people in need, we rely greatly on volunteers and donors to support our neighbors in need of housing, shelter, food and more. Kindness is contagious, and with the help of these students, we can continue to provide people the opportunity to experience positive and lasting change.”
Since 1986, Operation Hope has been offering those without a place to stay shelter, and so much more. Men, women and families not only obtain a safe place to sleep, but also receive individualized case management while they work towards realizing self-identified goals. Operation Hope welcomes your support at operationhopect.org/donate/.