Freshmen volunteer at Nehemiah Center, host toy drive and book fair


Marci Bahr

Freshman Gaby Jammar reads books to children at the Nehemiah Center.

Afraaz Malick, Staff Writer

After seeing how much the students at the Nehemiah Center enjoyed a Middle-School-sponsored Easter egg hunt last year, Rahul Lal decided to found Toy Adventures for Kids this past fall.

Toy Adventures for Kids is a school-sponsored community service project that organizes activities for the Nehemiah Center — a place that provides assistance to low income families through education — twice a year. With the assistance of Community Service Coordinator Marci Bahr, Lal, a freshman, refined the fall project and decided on trivia stations and a book fair.

“The preparation for the fall project was pretty extensive,” Bahr said. “Rahul and I met every other week to hammer out details, and he would communicate not only his group’s ideas, but his own to me.”

For the group’s first project, Lal collected book and toy donations on campus throughout October, November and December before leaving for the Nehemiah Center with a group of 12 freshmen and parent volunteers on Jan. 14.

“I was pleasantly surprised with the turnout since [the project] was on a Monday afternoon,” Lal said. “It meant a lot to me that people were willing to give up their time to make an enjoyable afternoon for the kids.”

After they arrived, the project members split into groups for the trivia stations and book fair. The stations started with children from different grades teaming up to tackle questions about history, math, science, sports and art. Each station consisted of three questions, and once a team answered a question correctly from each station, the students earned a sticker. After the trivia stations were finished, students picked a toy and book.

“I loved how the kids’ faces lit up every time they answered a question,” freshman Charlie Leach said. “They were so eager to learn and answered each question enthusiastically.”

While some kids were waiting for their turn to select a toy and a book, the volunteers held rock-paper-scissors, dance and mental math competitions. After every kid received their prizes, the volunteers read to them. According to Bahr, the ultimate goal of the project was to put focus on literacy. 

“Reading and books have always been huge parts of my life, so it was really special to see kids holding books that I read and loved when I was younger,” freshman Olivia Doan said.

While reflecting on the volunteer work, freshman Mia Baumann said, “One of the kids told me that it was the best day of school, and it was great to see what SJS students can do when they work together for a common goal.”