By MADDY VITALE
OCNJ CARE, along with Kookie Kids, are showing the love for the senior Class of 2021 with gift bags filled with goodies.
This past week both senior cohorts got a surprise as they were dismissed from school. The 335 baggies were filled with cookies, candies and heart-shaped pretzels.
And a note on each bag said it all: “Roses are Red. Violets are Blue. Salty or Sweet. OCHS Loves You!”
They were greeted by volunteers who handed them the “Senior Celebration Love Bags.”
Drew Fasy, an Ocean City resident and chairman of OCNJ CARE, a non-profit organization that raises funds and helps out in the community where there is a need, said it has been difficult for so many nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is OCNJ CARE’s continuing effort to support the kids in the community and look out for their mental well-being,” Fasy said. “Our kids need the community now more than ever. OCNJCARE is sensitive to the needs of the kids during the pandemic and their mental state.”
OCNJ CARE partners with other organizations, like Kookie Kids, a student-led mission of St. Peter’s United Methodist Church in Ocean City, to help kids and to make events, activities and goodies possible.
Fasy often works with Jennifer Bowman, who is also a member of OCNJ CARE.
Bowman led the charge for the latest of what the two groups have done so far to provide some positivity for the students in the district over the last year.
“They have been so supportive of the students and families and their mental health,” Bowman said of OCNJ CARE.
At the beginning of January, Bowman created a Facebook page for families of OCHS students to help the parents get involved and to give them information and to bounce ideas off each other.
Bowman’s daughter Katie and a friend started Kookie Kids to help less fortunate kids when Katie was just 13. She is now 18.
Now, Kelsea Bowman, Katie’s younger sister, and Andi Helpenstine make up Kookie Kids. The two, along with other volunteers, make cookies to sell at farmers markets, shops and St. Peter’s Church to help kids in need.
Kookie Kids baked about 1,600 butter cookies in the shape of hearts. Heather James, a member of the Ocean City Education Foundation and active parent, paid for the candy that went in the bags. Her daughter, Lexi, bagged up the candies, Fasy explained.
“It’s pretty cool to see Kookie Kids come full circle,” Jennifer Bowman said.
HOW THE COMMUNITY CAN HELP
St. Peter’s United Methodist Church is the hub for assembling the Senior Celebration bags. They are collecting items for Raider Nation March Madness bags that they will be distributing March 17 and 18. St. Patrick’s Day-themed butter cookies are also being sold for $5 a box in March at Arlene’s on Asbury Avenue.
They are also collecting microwave popcorn and movie theater candy. There will be a collection box right inside the door at St. Peters for anyone wishing to donate foods for goodie bags.
For more information about how to help out or give a cash donation toward creating the Senior Celebration bags and for other items that are needed, text or call Jennifer Bowman at 609-425-1474.