Students at Pleasantville High School recently showed their support for homeless youth served by Covenant House in Atlantic City by bringing in donations of personal care items.

Members of the School Store Club on March 14 collected the donated items at the beginning of the school day. In exchange, students and staff who contributed were given passes allowing them to dress down for the day.

Teacher Catherine Stanley, the club's adviser, said more than 500 students participated.

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By the end of the day, enough toiletries were donated to fill six, 20-gallon buckets.

"It was a really good effort and we're proud of the students," said Stanley, adding this was the second year for the donation drive.

The huge donation comes at a perfect time for Covenant House, manager of development Jen Williams said.

"Usually by this time of year, we start to run out of so many of the hygiene items that were generously donated during the holidays," Williams said. "That's why getting this now is so important to us."

Williams also sees value in teens helping other teens and young adults.

"For their peers to organize and collect the daily necessities our clients need is a beautiful thing," Williams said. "It shows compassion."

Covenant House provides temporary shelter for young adults between the ages of 18 and 21, while assisting them in finding a job and permanent housing.

Stanley said she believes in the program and called it a "truly remarkable organization" committed to helping young people get a fresh start.

"I feel there is a real synergy between what we do at the high school level and what they do for young adults by helping them get on their feet," said Stanley, 53.

Among the many items donated were those clients identified as most needed, such as deodorant, shower shoes, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo and moisturizer. Students also brought in dozens of rolls of toilet paper, bottles of body wash, lotions, and small combs and brushes.

"It's the right thing to do," said sophomore Marie Normil, who started helping out in the school store this year and was one of the students who stayed after school to help pack up the items for delivery.

The 15-year-old described it as a "paying forward" event for her classmates.

"One day you might be the one in need and look to others for help," she said. "It's a good feeling to give back to the community."

Fedena Florestal, 16, said she enjoys helping others and was glad to be part of the donation drive.

"It means so much to me to be able to help the community," she said while bagging the items. "This is why I want to join the military when I'm older, so that I can be in a position to help wherever I'm needed."

Both Normil and Florestal said they personally know teens who have been helped by Covenant House. The girls said they consider the toiletry drive a very worthwhile effort.

Senior Ty'rell Anderson, 18, took the lead in marketing the event around school. He also was there in the morning to collect donations from incoming students as the day started, Stanley said.

Besides overseeing the operations of the school store, the School Store Club helps students learn about retail management; wholesale and retail pricing; ordering merchandise and marketing, said Stanley, who teaches a financial literacy class.

Also included in the club's mission statement is to give back to the community, which the students fulfill in various ways, including by planning donation drives such as last week's event and by volunteering at the Community FoodBank in Egg Harbor Township. The students are planning a school-wide food drive next month, this time to help the FoodBank, Stanley said.

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