On a very hot day in August, our long-time volunteer, Tess Lucanie, a rising junior at Mount Saint Dominic Academy, brought a group of classmates and friends to the soup kitchen to share their love and 400 school-supplied filled backpacks with the children of the Newark community.

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Tess started volunteering at the soup kitchen, alongside her mother, at a very early age. When asked about her earliest service memories, she warmly remembered how she would play and do crafts with the children who came to eat lunch. Over the years, she made many friends who came to her house for sleepovers. Her 8th birthday was extra special, her family rented a movie theater so all of her new friends from Newark could join her school friends for her birthday celebration.

As Tess grew older, she was able to take on more independent responsibilities, such as spending her summers volunteering in the daily Summer Literacy Program. Tess learned first-hand of the many personal struggles of children from this community, in particular, the lack of access to new and basic school supplies. Tess reflects, “many things the children were going through seemed unfair. However, this one issue of school supplies bothered me greatly as I always loved the excitement of going to the store and getting ready for school. It made going back to school something I looked forward to.” Tess knew that this was not true for the many children she met during the Summer Literacy Program and decided to change that — and change it she did!

 

Last year, Tess distributed 100 school supply filled backpacks to the children at St. Ann’s Soup Kitchen with the majority donated by the generosity of the Bogda Family/Friends and their company Service Professionals. Tess handed them out and was overwhelmed by the happiness and smiles on the faces of all the kids. However, her joy was deflated when, as she told us “I realized at some point that we had 100 back packs but that almost 250 children had lined up. I was so saddened to have to tell 150 children that there was none left – especially the little girl who begged me for a pink back pack. In that moment, I committed myself to the goal of having enough inventory to ensure that there would only be tears of happiness.”

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Using her resolve and her even stronger golf skills, Tess attended a Franciscan Charities Golf outing where she told her story to the women in her four-some from Thomson–Reuters. Immediately they offered to help her meet her goal of 400 backpacks. Tess took Nikol Barikos, a senior staffer at Thomson-Reuters, up on her offer to lead the charge at her company and with her Executive MBA alum at NYU. To facilitate this, Tess created an Amazon Wish List of all her needs for Nikol to distribute. In addition, Tess again relied on the generosity of the Bogda Family and Service Professionals for their continued support and commitment of 100 school supplied backpacks.

Tess said, “It was amazing to see the love and support that was there for this initiative. My front door on Amazon Prime day felt like Christmas, as so many of Nikol’s co-workers and classmates purchased much needed items for our give away – especially pink backpacks. And the Bogda Family/Friends made good on their commitment of 100 back packs even including a beautiful note in each one, which Tess copied to ensure all 400 children would get their “note of love and inspiration.”

 

Franciscan Charities extends a BIG thank you to Tess and all of her supporters for bringing back to school excitement and their love to the children in the soup kitchen.

Tess would also like to send her own shout out of thanks to everyone who turned her backpack goal into a beautiful and fun-filled reality:

The Bogda Family and Service Professionals
Thomson-Reuters
Executive MBA Program at NYU
Nikol Barikos
Lydia and Jen Nisita
Courtney Hospes
Elena Zilbershmidt
Matthew Leaney
Jhoh Franklin
Scott O’Leary
Sam Leotta
Chris Van Bergan
Mikael
Sandra Klose and the Klose Family


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