A team of over two dozen student and parent volunteers, all wearing masks, collected food donations from holiday parade cars during the Montville Township Public Schools’ district-wide Rock ‘n’ Drop event on Friday, December 18, 2020. The donations were given to the Montville Kiwanis Food Pantry.
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Like most gatherings in 2020, holiday celebrations at elementary schools have adapted to meet the socially distanced needs of the COVID-19 pandemic. In Montville Township Public Schools, parents of fifth grade students in all five district elementary schools decided to come together and organize one holiday celebration – a town-wide Rock 'n' Drop holiday car parade.
“The Rock ‘n’ Drop is where people give food for the food pantry,” explained fifth grade Hilldale student Dylan Kideckel. Dylan volunteered to run food from the parade cars to the waiting SUVs. “The food pantry helps give food to people who can’t afford it.”
The fun, festive, and contact-less, holiday-themed event provided an opportunity for students to decorate family cars, dress for the season, cheer, laugh, and safely come together while staying inside their own cars. The Rock ‘n’ Drop was held on Friday, December 18, 2020.
More than 100 cars drove the parade route, and each donated non-perishable food for the Montville Township Kiwanis Club's Food Pantry. Six vehicles waited for donations to arrive. They each were ultimately filled to the roof with over 175 cases and bags of donated food items. The Kiwanis Food Pantry provides food for those in the community who cannot afford to purchase food.
“This Outpouring of generosity tonight is awesome,” said Kiwanis Food Pantry representative, Ron Rauschart. “We had no idea – we had no idea it was going to be this huge.”
With sirens blaring, The Montville Township Police Department and the Montville Fire Department escorted the car parade from the Montville Community Park to the parking lot at the Montville Township Board of Education Offices. The police and fire departments helped the Hilldale 5th Grade Committee to organize the logistics of the event.
Three police officers, five fire fighters and honorary fire fighter, Santa, attended the Friday night event. Santa was joined by The Grinch and Frosty – two parent volunteers. Superintendent of Schools Dr. René Rovtar also attended dressed in a bunny costume as Ralphie from “A Christmas Story.”
“We just wanted to do something fun,” said Rock ‘n’ Drop co-organizer, Jamie Kideckel, a Hilldale Elementary School parent. “We wanted to do something fun for the holidays, and something that gives back to the community.”
Jamie Kideckel, Amee Chatterjee and Melissa Jones, are parent co-chairs for the 5th Grade Committee at Hilldale. In putting together the Rock ‘n’ Drop they reached out to the four other elementary schools in the Montville Township Public Schools district.
Fifth grade volunteer, Shalin Chatterjee of Hilldale explained that, with the help of the parent organizations in each school (PTAs, PTCs, HSAs), fifth grade families from Cedar Hill Elementary, Valley View Elementary, William Mason Elementary and Woodmont Elementary joined Hilldale in the holiday car parade and food drop.
“We were honored to be asked to be a part of the combined, 5th grade, district-wide, event,” said Officer Scott McGowan, who is the Montville Township Public Schools School Resource Officer and a member of the Montville Township Police Force. “We were happy to help spark holiday cheer and help the Kiwanis Food Pantry. The Food Pantry is a wonderful organization that fills an important need in our community. This was a fantastic turnout.”
Driving in decorated cars, fifth grade students and families joined in the parade. Once at the BOE offices, Santa, The Grinch, Frosty, and a team of over two dozen student and parent volunteers, all wearing masks, took food donations from the parade cars, and deposited the items into one of six large SUV vehicles that were waiting to receive the non-perishable donations.
“It’s important to be here because we collect these presents, some of them can feed a family of four,” said fifth grade William Mason student William Ervey. Ervey also volunteered to greet the parade cars and collect food donations.
Traditionally all Montville Township Public Schools 5th Graders are gifted a personalized sweatshirt designed and donated by their school’s parent organization. The sweatshirts generally have the Montville Township Public Schools’ logo on front and graduation year on back. For 2020, all 5 schools used the same design to promote #unity. The 5th grade students from across the district wore their sweatshirts to the combined Rock ‘n’ Drop as a sign of unity throughout the community.
“This is exciting because we are collecting food for people who can’t afford it, Hilldale fifth grade Rock ‘n’ Drop volunteer Lucas Jones said during the event.
“You all, are to be commended for instilling the qualities of caring, sharing, kindness, and helping those in need, in your young students. Qualities we hope will remain with them throughout their lives,” Rauschart said to the Hilldale 5th Grade Committee in an e-mail following the Rock ‘n’ Drop. “The beneficiaries of this effort are the many Families we serve at our Food Pantry, who are in need, during these uncertain times, and throughout the Holiday Season.”
A video of the Rock ‘n’ Drop event can be seen at Montville Township Public Schools YouTube Channel.
The Montville Kiwanis Food Pantry is located at 91 Passaic Valley Road. Hours of operation are Thursdays, 4PM-6PM, and Saturdays, 10AM-12Noon.
In addition to the Rock ‘n’ Drop Food Drop event on December 18, 2020, all Montville Township Public Schools, including the five elementary schools and Robert R. Lazar Middle School and Montville Township High School, have held food drives, clothing drives and toy drives since September 2020. The extensive outpouring of donations has benefitted area families impacted by the global pandemic.