Creating A Reason To Be Thankful
By Terry Chao
|Danielle Mahoney, a teacher in Jackson Heights, stuffs handmade cards from her students into Thanksgiving baskets for seniors last year. She needs more help for this year.
This Thanksgiving, while we feast away at our tables on home-cooked provisions with friends and family, Danielle Mahoney, an instructor at PS 212 in Jackson Heights, will participate in Project Give, a program she started based on her previous work with Project FIND, by delivering not only a meal this holiday season, but a special creation from caring individuals.
Mahoney has been participating in the program for four years now. Much of the work is done "before the big day," when they assemble the care packages for seniors who do not have a chance to attend the annual sit-down dinner, which is in its 41st year, at the Church of Saint Paul the Apostle on 405 West 59 St. The seniors are on a list to be fed given out by Project FIND. "A lot are alone and live in very small apartments," Mahoney said. "Some were not even sure the food was coming and feel as if they didn't deserve it."
She got the inspiration to include hand-written cards from Cynthia Rylant's book "An Angel for Solomon Singer," "which was the perfect read-aloud to set up the card making project," Mahoney said. The first year, she invited her second-graders to make cards for the seniors to include in the care packages, totaling about 50 cards that were well received and cherished.
"When we do home visits, we have found the cards hanging up on their refrigerators and doors. I've saved a voicemail from a senior, who called crying to say how touched he was by the students," she said. "It's a good feeling to reach out to the seniors. At first it was only my second-graders, but now we've included children across many schools. Each card helps."
Though Mahoney has joined scholastic.com as a "top teacher offering literacy advice," which has enabled her to reach out to a wider audience, she still needs help in creating cards. She hopes to include two in each package. "People really want to help and be a part of something great, but don't know how to get started. I hope to get at least 1,000 out, and so far have received 50."
When asked about how the children reacted to the project, she was matter-of-fact.
"They were so excited," Mahoney said. "The older children asked to see if they could make cards for the seniors. Having seniors and children work together was a really good match. The kids and seniors understood each other very well. I made it a point to return with feedback from the seniors to let the kids know the impact they had on their lives as well as how much they appreciated the cards and warm wishes."
|One of the handmade cards from Mahoney's second grade students in Queens.
So how do you get started on making a card for one of the many seniors who will definitely appreciate your efforts and thoughts?
"They can introduce themselves, no last name, write the way you would write to a friend, hope they have a wonderful Thanksgiving, to enjoy their meal and that someone is thinking of them," Mahoney said. "Make it colorful, beautiful and add your special touch."
Mahoney invites everyone, not just children, to try to make a simple greeting to a senior. "Every card is different, and they will appreciate it all the more."
"We are all headed in the direction of getting older and I hope to get children to understand the value of our seniors," Mahoney said. "Sometimes I think the seniors are forgotten, so it's important to respect the elders in our work. Children need role models, someone to nurture and help them, to teach that our seniors are a population that need a helping hand sometimes."
Cards can be mailed to Project Give, P.S. 212, c/o Miss Mahoney, 34-25 82nd St., Jackson Heights, NY 11372.
Reach Intern Terry Chao at firstname.lastname@example.org or (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128.