"In Service to Others"
These four powerful words, found on the crest of the New Milford School District, embody the spirit of giving that prompted New Milford Gives. This second annual event was held on December 1 in support of Giving Tuesday, a globally recognized day for giving to raise awareness and goods for the homeless in Bergen County. New Milford Gives was started by New Milford High School alumnus, Will Esposito, who reached out to each of the four district schools to set in motion some fun and friendly competition to see which school would rise to the top in donations. Personal items collected included socks, pillows, hoodies, sweatpants, gloves, winter coats and scarves, shoes and boots. Others items included toiletries, such as paper goods, wet wipes, laundry detergent, deodorant, razors and shaving cream, bar soap and body wash, toothpaste and toothbrushes.
The response was overwhelming. All items were collected at New Milford High School, where Principal Lou Manuppelli petitioned the entire high school staff to gather at the end of the day to sort toiletries and other items into dozens of hygiene kits that would be distributed to shelters later that week. Recipients included the Alliance Against Homelessness of Bergen County, the Health and Human Services Center, Family Promise of Bergen County, Hackensack Housing, as well as area churches and food pantries.
That afternoon, there was no hierarchy—teachers, administrators, board of education members, students, and parents stood alongside other community volunteers united in a single vision to fulfill the school district’s commitment of service to others by providing for the county’s less fortunate what they often have difficulty providing for themselves. According to Mr. Esposito, “the night of giving is designed quite simply to celebrate everyone’s humanity through heartfelt sharing and generosity.” And this was accomplished with style as live music, food trucks, and spirited conversation filled the high school cafeteria until very late into the night.
Will Esposito’s organization, Hypelite, which sponsored the event, consists of socially responsible millenials determined to inspire young scholars to take charge of their future by cultivating their passion and creativity into successful life and business practices. He sees the night of giving as an integral part of that process—that connection with community and the needs of others should exist at the heart of a progressive culture. From a superintendent’s perspective, what might be considered extraordinary elsewhere, is largely ordinary in New Milford—special, absolutely, but fairly common, which, I suppose in a sense, makes the New Milford educational community ironically uncommon. The source of pride that New Milford Gives brings to the district at once underscores its commitment to community while instilling and reinforcing strong social values. As the CSA, I am drawn to Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant leadership, the “philosophy and set of practices that enriches the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world… [by focusing] primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid,’ servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible (www.greenleaf.org)." Will Esposito and Hypelite and all those who participated in New Milford Gives are exemplars that give life to this philosophy, which, one could say, defines what NMPSD, more of as an organism than an organization, is—not so much by what we say, but by what we do in service to others.