Unity serving their community

Cinnaminson Middle School’s Unity Club hard at work making meals for Camden’s Cathedral Kitchen

Cinnaminson Middle School’s Unity Club hard at work making sandwiches for the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden, NJ. Students, faculty and parent volunteers participated in three work sessions, each day making 350 sandwiches for a grand total of 1,050 meals donated to the kitchen.

Stephen Finn

The Sun

They say many hands make light work. The old adage was on full display at Cinnaminson Middle School last Tuesday, as the Unity Club took over the school’s cafeteria to prepare hundreds of sandwiches for the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden.

Character education facilitator Melissa Declementi and reading teacher Alison Palat are co-advisors for the Unity Club. Along with a number of parent volunteers, the two oversaw the day’s project.

“We do all of the service projects for the school,” said Declementi. “We started this whole district-wide initiative this year, ‘Character Strong, Pirate Proud,’ so we’re going with that for our unity theme this year.”

“We’re trying to teach the kids to be kind people, kind individuals. That’s what we’re promoting, unity in the school, unity in the community,” said Palat.

According to Declementi and Palat, the Unity Club has grown exponentially since its inception. What began years ago as a small group of about 10 children has ballooned into a club about 250 students strong.

In addition to teaching the value of service, Declementi says one of the main goals is to expose students to the outside world. Already this year, the club sent its eighth-graders on a trip to Arlington National Cemetery, seventh-graders to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York, and in March the club’s sixth-graders will be visiting the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia.

“Any time you can show the kids a different side of things, no matter what it is, they’re going to learn and it’s going to make them want to do things for other people,” said Declementi. “We’re pretty lucky here in Cinnaminson, we don’t have a whole lot of people who are in dire need.”

Tuesday was the third and final day the club would get together for this particular service project. Each day, the club put together 350 sandwich meals to be donated to the kitchen for a total of 1,050 meals by the end of this third work session.

Michelle McCarron is a parent volunteer with the Unity Club who showed up to lend a hand with the sandwich-making. Her children, eighth-grader Matthew and sixth-grader Lily, are members of the club.

“This is something my son chose to do in sixth grade, and I just started volunteering with him because there was always an opportunity for parents to volunteer as well,” said McCarron.

McCarron works in health care and wants to pass a similar willingness to help others on to her children.

“I get a lot of exposure, I try to share that with them. I work in a very underserved community in Philadelphia. It’s important for them to realize that there are people that need help,” said McCarron.

Eighth-grader Sami Nuraresau is in her third year with the club. She was initially drawn to the volunteering aspect of Unity and enjoys getting out into the community to do some good.

“I like to help out and do things for the community,” said Nuraresau.

For Declementi, Nuraresau’s willingness to help fits right in with what she considers one of the best aspects of Cinnaminson as a whole.

“I always say, ‘one of the things this town does the best is come together to help other people,’ and this is a perfect example of how we do that,” said Declementi.