Lucy G. MSJ ’21
Snow is falling and the air is colder at MSJ and for many, that's a reminder of Project Help. Historically, Project Help is the biggest event MSJ organizes and the students are always excited to be a part of it. With COVID-19 and social distancing, the student government knew they would have a difficult time trying to make Project Help work this year. Project Help relies on door to door interactions and gathering with large groups of people; one of the major aspects that makes it so fun. Going into the school year during a pandemic, everyone knew Project Help would have to be different this year.
Traditionally, Project Help is always the most exciting time of year at MSJ as it marks the end of school before Christmas break, and includes driving around with your friends collecting/distributing food, and most importantly, involves helping others in need. Students go door to door around our community seeking non-perishable food items and, the following day, students drive around and deliver boxes of said food items to families in need. Along with boxes of food, toys are also provided for the teenagers and children from the list of families receiving boxes. While organizing all of this is a lot of work, Project Help is fun for every student because they are not only able to spend the two days with their closest friends (and receive frostbite they will never forget) but they also get to help others in a big way. Seeing the faces of those who receive our boxes is a special fulfillment to our school community. When all the students, faculty, and staff participate in this special event it brings everyone together as a school. Knowing this, it was heartbreaking for the returning students who have done Project Help before. The senior class, especially, felt the disappointment of not being able to have their last Project Help be quite the same as in years past.
That being said, at the beginning of the year student government got started right away with brainstorming ideas for a covid-friendly Project Help. Starting from October all the way till the week before Project Help, student government and teacher advisors crafted a recipe for a doable Project Help in 2020.
The first thing that had to be decided was what to do about going door-to-door, which ultimately could not be done. Next was the food, since there was no more going door-to-door to collect food, money would have to be raised so we could buy the food ourselves, which we managed to do. Then it was decided since COVID-19 cases started rising again, exposure and touched surfaces needed to be limited. This was achieved with grocery store gift cards. Lastly, we decided to move Project Help to the school’s lobby for an easy and quick pick up for the families that would lower exposure for everyone.
Needless to say, it was difficult coming up with proper guidelines for a completely new Project Help, and limiting everything to only student government members. One thing staying the same amidst all the changes is the toys; we used money to buy more toys and had many donated to us, as well. Student government and the senior class have been wrapping all the toys in their spare time during school.
Since COVID-19 numbers began to rise so rapidly around the time of Project Help, we also plan, for the first year ever, to hold a second Project Help around Easter, in hopes of cases being lower by the spring.
Although Project Help is different this year, the importance and meaning behind it still stands true. As long as our school gets to help our community in a meaningful way and has a positive impact on the community around us, we couldn’t care less about the way it's organized. Project Help will always be a special tradition at our school no matter how different it looks. Our school enjoys Project Help because of the joy it brings to those giving and receiving, and the kindness it spreads.
Thank you to everyone who donated presents or made monetary donations. We hope everyone has a happy holiday season!