Rising Moorestown High School seniors lend a helping hand

Danielle DeNittis and Ava Hanuscin collect sanitation supplies for 2020-’21 school year

While it’s still uncertain what the 2020-2021 school year will look like, one thing is certain: The year ahead will be unlike any Moorestown students have experienced.

Moorestown High School student Danielle DeNittis is aware that the thought of returning to in-person instruction this fall may be inducing fear in some students, so she and fellow rising senior Ava Hanuscin wanted to do something to help ease that trepidation. The pair have started a nonprofit called Operation Helping Hand. Their goal is to collect cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment to ensure the district is adequately stocked for the year ahead.

“We knew it was going to be a long road ahead, so we’re trying to kind of find something to do or some way to help,” DeNittis said.

The pair use their homes as collection points and host weekly dropoff events for donors. They    collect masks, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, tissues and paper towels. 

DeNittis stressed that no donation is too small; even one bottle of hand sanitizer can go a long way in making students feel safer.

Hanuscin said while the pair understand wearing a mask is one way students can feel safer, they also wanted to give students the ability to wipe down their desks, use hand sanitizer and keep personal spaces clean. The idea is to help ensure schools are consistently well stocked so  students feel more eager and safe to return.

Both women admit they have mixed feelings about potentially returning to in-person instruction. While there’s some level of excitement at the prospect, there’s still a hesitancy. It was these mixed emotions that drove them to take action. 

“I think we understood in quarantine how this is going to be a major struggle going back to school,” Hanuscin noted.

The pair reached out to the district’s administration and officials were immediately on board. With their support, the girls aim to collect enough supplies based on district population, number of classrooms and student-to-teacher ratios. 

DeNittis said she and Hanuscin calculated the necessary supply quantities based on the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines for school reopening, released on May 19. Their aim is to collect 2,500 disinfectant spray canisters, 12,000 masks, 2,500 boxes of tissues and 2,500 bottles of hand sanitizer. They’ve created a website where donors can see their collection status and where they stand in terms of their goals.

To ensure the district doesn’t fall short on supplies at any point, DeNittis and Hanuscin will accept donations throughout the school year. DeNittis said the two still need to have a discussion with school officials about how the supplies will be accepted and divvied up. 

The next dropoff event will take place on Aug. 4, 6 to 8 p.m., at 1003 Westfield Road in Moorestown. Those interested in making large donations or anyone with questions can contact DeNittis at danielledenittis@yahoo.com

To stay up-to-date on weekly dropoffs or to learn more about Operation Helping Hand, visit operation-helpinghand.org