Operation Goody Bag is a student-centered, service-learning project dedicated to remembering September 11th. Our mission is to perform tributes remembering those who perished and express appreciation to our Military Men and Women, Veterans, and First Responders, through the gift of a Goody Bag.
A Goody Bag is a brown lunch bag, colored in a patriotic theme, filled with lollipops, candy, a personal letter of thanks, and poetry. Since 2003, Operation Goody Bag has colored, packed, and shipped over 200,000 Goody Bags. These Goody Bags are:
"Just a little brown bag bringing a little bit of home to those who serve."
Through Collection Drives, Letter Writing Initiatives, and Donations, Operation Goody Bag provides all Americans with an easy way to personally express their appreciation to the men and women serving at home and abroad who keep America safe. Through these activities, volunteers develop an awareness of the value of service.
On September 11, 2001, tragedy struck America in a way nobody could have imagined. While shock spread across the country, the nation's unknown heroes came to the rescue. Jane Cosco, a middle school Computer Teacher, came into school the next day and told her students to express their feelings through their PowerPoint assignments. Over the next few weeks, the children created heartfelt tributes remembering those who perished and honoring the sacrifices of First Responders. These shows were combined to create the 1st Annual "Night of Remembrance & Hope", a public show geared towards uniting the community. Since this first show, each year Operation Goody Bag has continued this tradition in hopes of reminding the community of the everyday sacrifices of those who keep us safe, and those who have kept us free. In order to better achieve this goal, Jane and her students brought the show to the people. They performed at VFW's, First Responder groups, American Legion, ELKs events, Scouts, Churches, neighboring schools, and community centers (to name a few). But, even with all this, it didn't feel like enough: The students wanted to reach out personally to everyday American Heroes, but how?
The answer came in November 2003 while Jane was working in her classroom, listening to Sean Hannity on WABC radio. One random phone call caught her attention. A woman on the radio was asking for help, and told a sad story: The Troops were going to be forgotten during the holidays and that wasn’t fair. The caller’s friend was the Director of Recreation for American Troops in Iraq. Budget cuts would mean fewer holiday treats for the soldiers. The woman gave out her email address on the radio and Jane wrote to her immediately. Jane thought about the great sacrifices the soldiers made each day to preserve our freedoms and knew that they deserved a wonderful holiday, just like those of us at home. She knew the amazing staff and students at East Brook Middle School could do something to help.
The students thought of shipping large cartons filled with loose candy, but felt that the gifts were not personal enough. Long hours went by and the decision was made: The best idea was to use brown lunch bags to put the candy in, just like the Goody Bags you get when you go to a birthday party. It was genius. By December 2003, the first carton was ready for the Post Office. The students could only imagine how much the goody bags would lift the spirits of the troops, and put smiles on the soldiers’ faces during the holidays. What felt even better was the fact that they were about to make a difference in the world.
The first shipment contained 1,782 Goody Bags in all.
Three weeks after the last carton was sent out, the students were amazed when the first thank-you note arrived! Just a few, yet powerful words from that note from Central Iraq:
“All of you children are truly great
American heroes! You are our future. You are the ones that will carry on the
traditions of our forefathers. You are the ones that will never allow our freedoms
to be taken away. You are our hopes, our dreams and our futures. Thank you so
much for the gifts.”
This note proved to be our inspiration. Since then, we have shipped over 200,000 Goody Bags to Active Duty Military, Veterans, and First Responders across the nation.
Jane Cosco is the pioneer and architect of Operation Goody Bag. After the tragedy of September 11th, Jane organized school activities that raised thousands of dollars for the Paramus Fire Department, Ambulance Corps, Police Department, Rescue Squad, and K-9 Rescue Dogs. On the 1st anniversay of September 11th, and every anniversary that has followed, Jane has organized the students to perform a "Night of Remembrance & Hope". Community officials and town organizations, along with students and their families take this night to share the memories and emotions of September 11th, and honor those who serve to keep us safe and free. For 40 years, Jane's work has embodied the mission of Paramus Public Schools to "create life-long learners who pursue their dreams and add value to the world." Under her extraordinary vision and leadership, she has established a wonderful working relationship with the United States Navy. Each year, Operation Goody Bag students are invited to sail on an Aircraft Carrier from Norfolk, VA to New York City for the annual Fleet Week celebration. During these voyages the children mingle with active duty sailors and marines, personally distribute thousands of goody bags throughout the ship, and perform their "Night of Remembrance & Hope" for these true American heros.
Alongside Jane, 5 East Brook Middle School Graduates have worked tirelessly for more than 8 years to take Operation Goody Bag where it is today. This year Matt Kaplan, Stephen Zisa, Max Benat, Olivia Gorman, and Kristen Rayner will be awarded the LIFETIME PRESIDENTIAL VOLUNTEER SERVICE AWARD for honoring 4,000 hours of volunteer service over a lifetime. While most community volunteers take a lifetime to attain this status, these 5 amazing students, through their diligence and their sacrifice have attained this level of achievement before graduating High School.
Operation Goody Bag owes to these students a debt of gratitude for their sustained commitment to recognizing and honoring First Responders, Troops, and Veterans. Through their example of selfless service, these 5 students inspire a commitment to service in others.