Teaching character through service is the goal of the Cinnaminson Character Strong, Pirate Proud Initiative.
Throughout the month of January, character education facilitator and Cinnaminson Middle School health and physical education teacher Melissa DeClementi conducts several events to get students throughout the district involved in helping others.
For Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service on Monday, Jan. 20, Cinnaminson held a district-wide event to create “dignity bags” for several different organizations. According to DeClementi, while Cinnaminson events normally get a good amount of participation, she still didn’t envision the impressive crowd they got for the Day of Service.
“I expected a first time out kind of crowd,” said DeClementi. “I didn’t really know how many people joined in. Totally overwhelmed. We had over 400 people sign up. We have over 50 members of staff here working and some of them brought their own families.
“There are all ages here and we had a response from the first responders from both fire and police. They are all here working. No one is just standing around. We’re totally efficient in all of the classrooms. It’s just amazing.”
Prior to the event, the school sent out a list of needed items. Each grade was tasked with fulfilling one type of item, which included toothpaste, deodorant, coloring books, crayons, shampoo, conditioner, granola bars, combs, brushes, soap and lip balm, to name a few.
However, on the day of the event, many residents showed up with items of their own to put into these bags. With all hands on deck, Cinnaminson was able to create 300 bags. Some bags were specifically for children, women and men, while others were appropriate for anyone in need. All bags received socks, toiletries, combs, brushes and snacks.
“Each grade level collected a certain item, but with the donations that we are getting today, people are just driving up and dropping things off,” DeClementi said at the event.
“Just like anything else you do in Cinnaminson, the support is amazing.”
According to DeClementi, what made this year’s activity even better than past events is the partnership with Cinnaminson Township. Throughout the planning process, DeClementi and Cinnaminson Township Park and Recreation Coordinator Christine Turner work hand in hand to deliver a fun and helpful event.
“Martin Luther King Day is a day of service,” said Turner. “It’s a day to give back and it’s great to get the community to come out, especially when all of the children and some of the parents have a day off today.
“They’re giving back to the community and creating these bags to give to the people who may not have a place to sleep at night. The event was a huge success and we can’t wait to do this in years to come and make it an even bigger event.”