Haddonfield middle schoolers offered lesson on the gift of service

Students, adults gather to perform upkeep on new Interfaith Caregivers property.

Students from Haddonfield Middle School took time out of their fall break to join members of WyldLife on Nov. 4 to perform maintenance on the grounds of Interfaith Caregivers. From left, Macie Straight, Keira Dempsey and Eamon Coelho are hard at work with raking on the property.

The mind can certainly wander on what to do with a crisp, bright November afternoon for teens and pre-teens who have the benefit of a week off from school. However, for a batch of Haddonfield Middle School students, Monday, Nov. 4 offered the chance to get up and get involved with beautification efforts for one borough property.

The new headquarters of Interfaith Caregivers of the Haddons is a stately home on Chestnut Street, across from Saxby’s, and which abuts First Presbyterian Church. With the advancement of autumn and an abundance of trees around the property, that leaves the opportunity for an afternoon’s worth of work.

Just last month, borough resident Kathy Harting helped to launch a group for middle-school age students called WyldLife, a division of YoungLife of Camden County. The latter’s mission is to introduce youth to skill-building experiences in communities alongside like-minded adults.

Since Interfaith boasts a small staff, enter the service-minded public to assist in routine maintenance on the grounds.

“Today, we’re doing fall cleanup. We have nine (students) with three more on the way. We are trying to build a partnership with Interfaith Caregivers, and we’re trying to bridge that gap between middle-school-aged kids and the elderly community. These kids have volunteered to come out on the first day of their break and help out,” Harting said.

Included in the work group were Macie Straight, Keira Dempsey, Eamon Coelho, Ashton Harting, Carol Earp, Madeline Z and Max Barson.

Mackenzie Strasle, who serves as the master’s level intern at Interfaith, added, “We’re really excited. You can’t ask for anything more. Being in school myself, and going for my masters, you see how service is important.

“Even at a young age, it’s hard to see value in something where they don’t really get anything out of it, monetarily. So, the fact that they’re here really means a lot to us and to our community, and to Interfaith as a nonprofit. Our services are great and now our building can look great as well.”

Based on the work ethic displayed by the youngsters, Strasle hoped that they would be able to be a part of future volunteer efforts offered by Interfaith.

“We would love to keep our collaboration with Wyldlife throughout the year. Our clients can benefit no matter what the weather is; spring cleaning or helping with Christmas stuff. But this relationship I can see being solid for years to come,” she added.

Also on site to supervise the cleanup effort was Jimmy Spilker, area director for Camden County YoungLife. He drove home the importance of getting young students involved in projects at an age where they begin to experience more of the world outside their own homes, and at times where they could be engaging in more leisurely activities.

“I think giving kids an opportunity to serve when they have time off from school just gives them a way to give back. They’ve had a lot given to them, so now they get to give to others.”

Like the others, Spilker was impressed with how focused and attentive the student volunteers were to the task at hand.

“They have so much potential and we want to cast a vision for them of what it looks like to serve others and how to have fun doing it. So we get to build relationships with them and invite them to do things like this. It’s fun to see them step up to the challenge,” he said.

For more information on WyldLife, visit https://www.younglife.org/ForEveryKid/WyldLife/Pages/default.aspx.