Robert R. Lazar Middle School Student Council students helped to fill holiday wishes for over 280 children and 7 families this past holiday season. They set a goal for $883 in gift cards. Surpassing their goal, they collected more than $4,000 in gift cards. They used the cards to purchase, wrap and deliver wish list gifts for DCPP families and children in foster care, as well as Montville community families, and the St. Peter’s Orphanage for boys in Denville. Items such as coats, boots, car seats, helmets, gifts, and more were purchased with the gift cards. Pictured (Left to right) Front row: 6th grade students Alexis Dorenbush and Blake Gershenoff. Back Row: Shalini Sivakumar, grade 7 and Student Council President Jhil Patel, grade 8.
In December the Student Council of Robert R. Lazar Middle School organized a gift card drive. Their goal was to collect $883 to support Morris County children in the New Jersey Division of Child Protection and Permanency [DCPP] Foster Care System. The drive was so successful that the student council was also able to provide holiday wishes to the St. Peter’s Orphanage for boys in Denville and Montville Township area families.
The gift card drive was held December 1 through December 14, 2022. Holiday wishes were then purchased, wrapped and delivered.
“The Student Council far surpassed the goal,” said Lazar Student Council Co-Advisor and Special Education Teacher Danielle Vytell-Mitschele. “We (teachers and staff) could hear and see the impact and excitement when the student council beat their goal of $883.”
Students at Lazar contributed $2500 in gift cards. Valley View Elementary School teamed up with Lazar and contributed approximately $800 in gift cards and $400 in monetary donations. The Montville Township Education Association [MTEA] held a district-wide dress down day. Those funds, which totaled over $300, were also contributed to the Lazar initiative.
Vytell-Mitschele explained that the community, Lazar and Valley View students, families, faculty, and staff members, personal friends, and MTEA educators and staff members from across the district, also helped by sponsoring specific children and purchasing gifts from the children’s wish lists.
Some departments, like the Montville Township Public Schools [MTPS] District Administrative Office Staff at 86 River Road in Montville, “adopted” a family. The staff purchased requested items, such as winter coats, and baby bedding, from the family’s wish list and wrapped the presents so the Lazar Student Council could deliver the holiday wishes.
“Gift cards were used to purchase gifts, coats, boots, car seats, helmets, and more,” added Vytell-Mitschele.
The Lazar Student Council worked directly with a DCPP contact to identify the needs of families and children in the foster care system in Morris County.
According to Vytell-Mitschele the Lazar Student Council Gift Card Drive was so successful that Gifts were provided, and needs were met, for over 280 children and 7 families. The gifts were distributed not only to DCPP families and children, but also to the Montville Community and St. Peter’s Orphanage for boys in Denville.
“We filled 5 vans -- filled -- with items,” Vytell-Mitschele said. “We were able to provide:
- Wishes and gifts for 187 children in the DCPP foster care program
- Wishes and gifts for 4 families through the DCPP foster care program
- Gift cards for 54 children in the Montville community
- Gift cards for 3 other families in need
- Gifts for 6 boys in the boys home in Denville
“We were able to create a holiday where there would have been none,” Vytell-Mitschele explained, “So …when children ask, ‘Is there a Santa Claus?’…the answer is ALWAYS yes!!!”
Robert R. Lazar Middle School serves 726 students in the grade 6 through grade 8 population of Montville Township Public Schools. Valley View Elementary is home to 370 pre-kindergarten through grade 5 students. In total the Montville Township Public Schools District has 3,431 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in seven schools throughout Montville, Towaco and Pine Brook, New Jersey.
Vytell-Mitschele and 6th Grade Social Studies Teacher and Flag Football Advisor Gabriel Rios are Co-Advisors to the Lazar Student Council.
Vytell-Mitschele said that for her, “The biggest take away from this experience is we were able to impact the lives of children in Lazar by giving them the ability to experience and participate in the giving and empathy towards others.”
Those children and families who received gifts were local to Morris County New Jersey.