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Elizabeth Public Schools Community Members Open Their Hearts by Donating “Toys for Change”

Who doesn’t have a fuzzy memory of a favorite stuffed animal, kept close for those times when you needed a little extra support?  Now imagine leaving your favorite stuffed animal behind or losing it on the journey as you flee your home. Something so seemingly insignificant as a stuffed animal can be so special to a child amid turmoil.  Every loss, even the loss of a toy, can be overwhelming.

The discussion of how we can help children in the Ukraine began soon after the world received the troubling news.  As the discussion grew, Elizabeth Team Members reflected on students who brought their favorite stuffed animal friends to school.  These toys helped to calm nerves and transition to new environments. An idea was born. Elizabeth Public Schools would offer some comfort with the collection of new stuffed animals to help displaced children halfway around the world.

The district had the perfect partner in mind to make “Toys for Change” a successful drive and reached out to Dr. Norma Bowe, director and board chair of Kean University’s Be the Change NJ. Be the Change is a non-profit program dedicated to community service and activism projects that help promote peace and non-violence in urban neighborhoods. After communicating with Dr. Bowe, Ms. Edtya Drobriewska, Nicholas Murray Butler School No. 23 Kindergarten teacher and Be the Change NJ board member, was identified to lead the project.    

Toys for Change flyers were distributed to all members of the Elizabeth Public Schools learning community and in a few short days boxes were filled in schools throughout the district.  Soon, multiple boxes were filled, then large bags. Everything from toy babies, to dragons, to unicorns, teddy bears, games, and even handmade cards flowed in as the Elizabeth learning community poured their hearts out to the children of Ukraine.

These donations will make their way to the Ukraine through a series of truck rides and either a plane or boat ride over to Poland. Once they have arrived, the organization’s contacts in Poland will connect donations with those who need them most.  Stuffed animals will be loved and treasured in just a few short days!

Be the Change is run entirely by volunteers like Ms. Drobriewska.  Every penny collected is returned to the community for programs and activities.  In addition to supplies for Ukraine, this organization has facilitated many vital programs and initiatives such as homelessness relief, the creation of peace gardens in abandoned lots, addressing urban food deserts with the use of vertical fruit and vegetable gardens, creating safe spaces for youth, young women empowerment programs and so much more! Many of the volunteers also work on a Certified Emergency Response Team and can be deployed to assist in disasters.

Elizabeth Public Schools thanks everyone who participated and extend our appreciation and admiration to Be the Change NJ.