Norridge students make sandwiches to bring homeless holiday cheer
Ridgewood High School junior Ewelina Kruszewska of Harwood Heights makes sandwiches with mentor Ivana Di Piero of Norridge at the Norridge school. About 900 sandwiches were made and distributed to the homeless last month. | Ryan Pagelow~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 4, 2013 6:04AM
NORRIDGE — Traveling outside one’s neighborhood can be rewarding.
For members of the Ridgewood High School’s mentoring program, making sandwiches for distribution to homeless folk in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago provided that opportunity.
Shepherding them were members of the Salvation Army.
“The students were a great help,” said Capt. Brian Davis of the agency’s Norridge Citadel.
Student Alyssa Martinez noted each year those in the mentoring program get together with freshmen students to make sandwiches for people in need.
“We had tables of kids and adults that decorated the bags with sayings of ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays,’” she explained. “We had lines for people to make the sandwiches along with (packing) fruit, homemade cookies and pieces of candy.”
Martinez said the goal of the project was to help students realize the good they are able to do for the community, and to bring everyone together.
“While some probably didn’t see this, others did,” Martinez continued, “and were excited to be part of this service.”
Davis said the sandwiches helped supplement the Salvation Army’s usual program of providing soup to those who don’t visit traditional food sites.
“These are the chronic homeless,” he explained. “We go to where the people in need gather.”
Carol Valentino-Barry, faculty advisor for the mentoring program, said as a continuation of Project Happiness, students and mentors connected with their families by making cookies for the homeless.
“And boy, were they appreciated,” she said “Moreover, the sandwich-making involved not only freshmen and mentors but also some of our sophomores, juniors and seniors in decorating the bags with “Happy Holidays,” packing the boxes and delivering to those in need.”
Heading out to the area around St. Lawrence and King Drive on the south side was daunting and exhilarating at the same time.
“When we went to a part of Englewood, riding around with awesome people from the Salvation Army, the kids seemed anxious to give out sandwiches to people,” Martinez said. “Some were scared and some were excited, but they went out there making sure everyone got food for themselves and their families.”
Because she used to live near 79th Street and the Dan Ryan Expressway, Martinez said she was prepared.
“I felt a little bit at home,” she said. “It was a great experience.”
The project, she said, opened the eyes of many of her fellow students to the struggles that go on daily for those less fortunate.
“Seeing the people smiling and filled with joy as we passed those sandwiches out gave me a warm feeling,” she said.
“People were singing in return to us, telling us we were doing a great thing,” she added.
“It was just an amazing feeling that I can’t explain, and I think the kids have a better understanding of the world beyond Norridge and Harwood Heights.”
The students’ involvement wasn’t lost on those receiving the sack lunches.
“The wonderful part was that this was a reminder to them that there are people out there who care about them,” Davis said. “That people are taking that time.”
“It created a feeling of goodness being done,” Martinez noted. “And just thinking you’re making some people happy by doing this and taking the time to make sandwiches and cookies, gives you a euphoric feeling that you can’t get anywhere else.”