By Meghan Durkin ’21
On October 26, both Upper and Middle School students participated in Pingry’s annual Rufus Gunther Day. In a day dedicated to community service, Pingry students and faculty visited numerous organizations in order to give back to the greater New Jersey community. Students continued the long-standing tradition of service by, among other activities, sculpting clay, making blankets, planting trees, decorating posters, and sorting candy.
In the morning, buses picked students up and dropped them off at their various organizations. This list included Grow It Green, an organization that uses gardens to help provide fresh food to the community; Deirdre’s House, a center for children affected by abuse; and Community FoodBank, which helps the hungry. Pingry students also worked with ECLC (Education, Careers, and Lifelong Community), the John Taylor Babbitt Foundation, and Bridges Outreach, all of which Pingry has built strong relationships with.
In addition, students helped at organizations created by Pingry alumni: Saint Justine’s Preschool and The Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. A Birthday Wish, founded by another Pingry alum, provides gifts for kids in the foster care system. Anushka Agraway (IV), who helped wrap presents for the organization, remarked about her experience: “It was really great because it gives us a fun way to give back to the community”.
For the second time, Pingry Drama students went to Montgomery Academy, a school for kids with social and educational challenges. There, they stayed with Montgomery students during classes, including Music and English, and played improvisational games with them to help them learn how to mend negative situations. Mr. Alan Van Antwerp, a Drama teacher who joined the Pingry students at Montgomery, was excited to see that the Montgomery students “got along well with the Pingry students because they saw that [they] all were students too” and that there was a “fun, collaborative” environment between the two groups.
Ms. Shelley Hartz, Director of Community Service, worked hard to put the day together and finds that it’s important to “recognize as a community that we are part of a community . . . part of many communities” and that Rufus Gunther Day is an opportunity to “work with so many organizations that are diverse in what they do.” Ultimately, she hopes that this day of community service “builds bonds and tradition for students.” Ms. Hartz’s dedication to building relationships with organizations, in conjunction with Pingry students’ active involvement in community service, made Rufus Gunther Day, once again, a uniquely rewarding day.