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Rahway EA food donation supports community

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By David Brighouse, Rahway Education Association

On Monday, June 1, David Brighouse, Nicole Brighouse, Daniel Garay, and Jennifer Samsel, all employees of Rahway Public Schools and members of the Rahway Education Association (REA), delivered $1,000 worth of food to the Emergency Food and Nutrition Network of Catholic Charities (EFNN) in Cranford. The donation will serve to replenish the various food pantries maintained by Catholic Charities in Union County and throughout New Jersey.

The money for the purchase was provided by the REA, as part of its PRIDE grant program. NJEA PRIDE grants allow local education associations to promote school-based events and activities that encourage positive interactions with the community and raise awareness about the many excellent things occurring in public schools. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic and closure of schools, teachers were encouraged to apply for the grant money and use it for charitable purposes.

“When I heard that the grants could be used to support organizations and services beyond the schools,” David Brighouse, who teaches high school history in Rahway, said, “I thought of Catholic Charities. I’m a volunteer there, and I knew that the programs supporting the homeless and hungry were in desperate need.”

David spoke with his wife Nicole, who teaches 6th grade in Rahway’s Franklin Elementary School, and together they fashioned a grant proposal that secured the money they were requesting. They shared the good news with Sharon Reilly-Tobin, Director of Volunteer Services at Catholic Charities, and Crystal Smith, Program Manager of the EFNN. From there, the Brighouses squeezed the money as far as it would go, buying in bulk a wide variety of canned goods and boxed food—soups, cereal, tuna, vegetables, rice, peanut butter, jelly, pasta, beans, snacks, and juice—that would help restock the depleted shelves of Catholic Charities’ many pantries and food banks.

For the last stage of the project, Jennifer Samsel, Rahway’s secretary to the Director of Student Services, and RHS’s Danny Garay signed on to help with the actual delivery at Catholic Charities’ local headquarters on South Avenue in Cranford.

Everything went seamlessly, and on a beautiful Monday afternoon, 600 pounds of food was unloaded, ready for distribution to locations most in need. All those involved expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to be of service and to provide even just a little bit of hope during a trying and difficult time.

Garay, reflecting on the day, said, “It is always a very real and humbling experience to help those in need. I’m glad the REA was able to provide the needed resources to give back to our local communities.” Samsel agreed, saying, “I love helping where there is a need. I was so glad I was able to do so.”

Reilly-Tobin, who has seen her share of depleted food shelves and regularly witnesses the chronic need of New Jersey’s less fortunate, was overwhelmed with appreciation for the generous and timely donation.

She said, “We are so grateful to the REA for the donation during this difficult time. With skyrocketing unemployment and a declining economy, many people are struggling to feed their families and must turn to local food pantries for help. Thanks to this wonderful donation and others, Catholic Charities can provide nutritious food and vital support to those who need it most.”

The REA itself expressed interest in continuing the relationship with Catholic Charities, along with other charitable organizations, and emphasized the possibility of making similar donations in the future.