Sure, Alex Deland could have spent his Wednesday evening watching the New York Knick’s Jeremy Lin torch the Washington Wizards in the NBA or playing video games.
But the 13-year-old Pelham Middle School student had more important things to do and people to help. Deland was one of a group of members from the in Pelham who helped pack small bags of toiletry items for the homeless during the church’s “Family Service Night.”
“It’s a good feeling because you’re with all of your friends and you get to be in a church and help make all of these toiletries for people who need it more than we do,” Deland said.
The program, which has been going on for about four years, invites the church’s family members to gather together and work on community service projects. The church holds three service nights a year. Dinner is served during the projects to give families enough time to spend the night together.
The toiletry bags will be handed out when the church participates in “Midnight Run, a program that hands out needed supplies and food to the homeless in New York City, and given to Part of the Solution's shower program in the Bronx.
The packets included items like soap, shampoo, lotion, wash rags, toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs and razors.
In addition to the toiletry packs, the participants made Valentine’s Day cards that will be inserted into the packets.
“Last year, we came up with the idea of doing the cards since we’re doing this right before Valentine’s Day,” Susan Deland, one of the people volunteered on Wednesday. “I’ve got to believe that it’s warming the hearts of these guys when they open up these packets and find a little message saying that someone is thinking of them.”
Jacob Bolton, reverend at the Huguenot Memorial Church, said the idea for the service nights started when the church’s Christian Education Committee saw a need to provide developmentally age appropriate service projects for young families to do together.
“Hopefully, the kids learn two things,” Bolton said. “The first thing is that service and being kind to others is an element of faith. Not just Christianity, but it’s a pretty elemental aspect of a lot of different religions. The other thing I hope they learn is the ability to think outside themselves. Far too often, we live in a world that’s me, me, me and this provides and opportunity for children, families and anyone to come here and do something for others.”
Gabrielle Limardo, 15, said the program is rewarding.
“It’s a good way to give back and it feels good inside,” Limardo said. “I feel good that someone who doesn’t have as much as we do is going to get some things that they need.”
The church is hosting another Family Service Night in March. More information is available here.