Burlington kids use their school success to help the hungry

From video games to new hockey gear, there were plenty of ways Jayson Luciano could spend the money his parents rewarded him with for making his school’s honor roll last year. But the Burlington boy decided to use his earnings to help stock our Delanco food pantry.

“I like being a generous person, and I like to make sure that everyone has equal rights, and everyone has food in their bellies,” said Jayson, 10, who donated half of the $150 honor roll money his parents Kelly and Sam gave him ($50 for straight As and $25 for As and Bs per marking period).

Jayson, little sister Caylee, and Kelly visited Burlington County Community Services last month to deliver groceries they bought with his honor roll money. They toured the facility and plan to return as volunteers.

Kelly said her son, who will be a fifth-grader at Wilbur Watts Intermediate School next month, announced earlier in the year that he wanted to donate to charity.

“I said, ‘oh, OK,’ and all year, I was waiting for him to back out and say, ‘no, no, no, I want to spend it on this (something else),’” Kelly said. “But he never backed out.”

Charity is contagious

Inspired by her brother’s generosity, Caylee also decided to donate half of her honor-roll earnings.

“I thought it was nice, so I wanted to do it too,” said Caylee, 8, who’s going into the third grade and likes to do cheer, track, gymnastics, soccer, dance and singing. “It feels really good, because it made me feel generous. That’s what you should do: If no one has food, you should give food to them.”

Jayson already plans on acing his report cards in school this year so that he can continue helping people in need. He especially likes Catholic Charities’ school supplies drive, which aims to equip students from low-income families with new backpacks stuffed with everything they need to be successful in class.

“If I put hard work into my school stuff, I’ll be able to make more money and maybe give half to you guys again,” said Jayson, who plays basketball, baseball and ice hockey. “It’s (poverty) like a problem for many people.”

A lesson in empathy

Such philanthropy offers meaningful lessons for children, Kelly said.

“My kids have no idea what it’s like to go hungry or want for anything,” she said. “I want them to see that not everyone has everything, even basic-need things like food and clothes. You know, there are times when they’ll complain, like before lunchtime, ‘I’m starving!’ But they don’t really understand that there are people out there who actually are starving. There are probably people in their school who are starving. They’re so young, and they don’t realize that some people struggle to afford groceries that they take for granted.”

More than 40,000 people – nearly half of which were children – received food last year from Community Services. Summer is an especially busy time for food pantries, because schools are out for the summer, increasing the food insecurity of thousands of children who get free and reduced meals during the school year.

“So many people rely on Catholic Charities to help feed their families, so we welcome every donation that comes our way. And when it comes from children, it’s especially inspiring,” said Richard Ferreira, program director of Mercer-Burlington Community Services.

For more information, contact Dana DiFilippo, communications, at (609) 394-5181, ext. 1153.

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