Caroline Speck is a junior here at FTHS. She was nominated as student of the month in honor of her dedication, initiative, leadership, and her fundraising accolades. She is enrolled in the club Blessing Bag Brigade and has achieved many fundraising milestones. Caroline is the epitome of a leader; she is organized, mature, responsible, reliable, enthusiastic, and very hardworking. Her communication skills among others make her such a role model to her other club members. She not only enjoys this club, but spreads positivity throughout the environment encouraging other students to enjoy it as well. Thanks to Caroline’s hard work, the Blessing Bag Brigade has had a long legacy of success. Congratulations to FTHS’s May Student of the Month! To learn more about Caroline and her club check out her interview below!
Brianna Pacailler: What is the Blessing Bag Brigade?
Caroline Speck: The Blessing Bag Brigade is a non-profit organization that began in 2016 with the concept of compiling bags of necessities (including food, water, soap, conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc.) and distributing them to those in need of such items. The founder of the organization, community member Kevin Garrison, is responsible for its flourishing into so much more than that. Now, the Blessing Bag Brigade hosts soup kitchens to feed those who are hungry, hosts inclusive events for special needs kids, all while still continuing that original project of making and distributing those bags.
BP: What are some of your priorities as a member of this club?
CS: As a member of this club, I have found myself constantly on the lookout for new service opportunities. My values shifted from filling out my service forms to actually finding new ways to aid people. On the occasion when I find that the club has some downtime, I try to encourage members to participate in service opportunities like making sandwiches for the soup kitchen at Saint Peter’s Church, another service sponsored by the Blessing Bag Brigade. As a leader, I try to prioritize getting as many kids to participate in these things as possible. There is no time to waste since there is always more help to be given.
BP: Can you tell us a little bit about your past fundraisers?
CS: Since the club started up in January, we successfully completed two different types of fundraisers. The first one was a collection of the items we use to fill the bags (food, water, soap, conditioner, toothbrushes and toothpaste, etc). We collected over 2,000 items that were donated, packed up, and distributed all within the month of March. I was ecstatic about this considering it was our very first drive and I had not anticipated such a large turnout. The next major project we took on was running an apparel sale in the month of May. We sold nearly $600 worth of clothing, and the profit went directly to the Blessing Bag Brigade to be used towards community projects. I was so happy about this, not only because it was so successful in terms of the BBB organization, but also because it helped solidify the club and spark future conversion about what the BBB stands for. Now that so many people own this apparel, I hope that others will ask them what it means and that the significance of the Blessing Bag Brigade will spread by word of mouth. Though we took on some other mini projects, these two are our proudest successes.
BP: What certain key factors do you need to include for a successful fundraiser?
CS: For a fundraiser to be successful, organization, incentive, and collaboration must be implemented. In each successful project the club has taken on, we have kept extremely organized documentation of each meeting, each article of information, and each transaction we have made. Taking these precautionary measures prevents confusion and ensures that the fundraiser will run smoothly. Incentive gives kids reason to participate. For example, for our first drive, we distributed 1 service hour for each 10 items that students donated. This gave kids a reason to donate and also aided them. In our apparel sale, students got to take home shirts and sweatshirts in exchange for their donations. Without such incentive, I cannot guarantee that the BBB would have profited as much as it did. Finally, collaboration is the key to each success I have experienced. Incorporating the ideas of others has improved each project I have taken on. Appointing a board for the club was likely one of the best decisions we made, because now I constantly receive input that improves all of our projects and fundraisers.
BP: Does your club have a specific motto, or what is something that keeps your members motivated?
CS: We do not have a motto, but something that keeps members motivated, in my opinion, is the announcement of each of our successes. Kevin Garrison, the president of the Blessing Bag Brigade, keeps detailed track of exactly how many lunches are donated to soup kitchens, bags distributed to those in need, etc. I think that seeing these numbers go up and knowing that our work is directly impacting the community around us aids in encouraging the club members to want to stay involved. I try to post updates and let everyone on our classroom page know how we are doing as a cub, and hopefully this keeps them motivated!
BP: Why did you originally choose to join the Blessing Bag Brigade?
CS: Honestly, I think I first started helping out in BBB because I needed service hours. However, this is how most good things start: totally unexpectedly. I really liked the message of the organization and I continued helping out for this reason. All of the adults involved are so kind and have such a good network full of fantastic and inspirational people and I loved being a part of it, coming to events, participating, hosting drives at summer camps, etc. As an active participant always on the lookout for ways to help, I created my own way to help: beginning a club at Township.
BP: What has this club taught you throughout your years of involvement?
CS: This club has taught me the importance of a strong foundation and network. There are so many community members involved behind the scenes that are the reason BBB has remained such a prevalent organization in Freehold and surrounding areas for years. I have met so many inspirational people just by being a part of it, and everybody has welcomed me and the club with open arms. Being a part of this, so close to so many of these people, I have learned so many fundamental lessons for which I am so grateful.
BP: Do you have any advice for anyone interested in joining this club?
CS: First of all, I encourage everyone to join our Classroom page (use code aoc5h3d or email me at [email protected] with questions) just to test the waters. No obligations are made by joining, but you will receive updates on what we do! We have big plans for next year regarding new projects we will be taking on. For those interested in joining, I advise you to just do it! You will not be bound to anything, but you will be able to participate whenever you choose to do so. It is beneficial for the community and you can definitely receive some service hours. Hopefully you enjoy your time in the club!
BP: Lastly, do you have any advice for the new freshman joining FTHS this September?
CS: My advice is to try as many new things as you possibly can, and to sincerely enjoy all of it. Sometimes I can’t even believe how fast the last three years have gone and I’m sure I’ll be graduating in the blink of an eye. It goes by really fast, so you want to dip your feet in all over the place as opposed to just sticking to what you know. That’s how you figure out what you like!