By Nora Lowe
On October 12th, students swarmed the assorted array of baked goods on the cafeteria table including brownies, blondies, cupcakes, and a variety of candies. The first bake sale of the year for the PB&J Club was a success! The PB&J Club is led by seniors, Erin Haas and Luke Gastelu, and supervised by Ms. Shaw. The club members strive to aid the homeless by raising funds and preparing food to give to the needy.
The PB&J Club is a fairly new group, as it has only been at Byram for two years. It was started at the end of last year but also exists on the West coast. Freshman club member, Edith Bachmann, moved to Armonk over the summer from California and participated in the PB&J Club at her previous school. She remembers, “the sandwiches were made after school, and delivered to the homeless shelter before school. Everyone would donate jars of peanut butter and jelly, including me.” Edith also shares that she is excited to be part of the PB&J club here at Byram because she “thinks it’s a really cool idea and is a good way to help the community.”
In addition, the club is well-known by colleges, who recognize the important work that charitable students do. Erin and Luke graduate this year but plan to visit and help the club in upcoming years. They also trust that the underclassmen will manage the club responsibly. Since it is a fairly new club, there are still leadership positions that need to be filled.
Club members raise money for supplies to make the sandwiches primarily through bake sales. Currently, the club is in contact with various local homeless shelters including The Pacific House, the Open Arms Shelter and Social Services group, and the Coachman Family center. They have been primarily communicating with Lifting Up Westchester in White Plains. Two times each year, the club uses their funds to hold an event in which all members can help put together the sandwiches to give to the homeless. They will create “snack packs” which consist of a few snacks or treats and a small drink such as a water or a juice box.
The PB&J Club is enthusiastic and optimistic about expanding their efforts. They hope to organize other fundraisers such as car washes and midnight walks through town. These efforts will provide an enjoyable opportunity for club members and all interested students to come together in order to collaborate and come to the aid of the less fortunate. They also hope to affiliate themselves with shelters in New York City, and ultimately, organize a trip to one of the shelters where some of the 110 members can see the impact that they are having on those who are less fortunate.
Byram Hills senior and club president Erin Haas was inspired to start the PB&J Club after visiting the West Coast. She recalls, “I went to California last December break…each day during my visit I passed the same breakfast shop. Outside sat a homeless man. I ended up developing a friendship with the man that will forever change my outlook on life. During that same trip, Pepperdine University mentioned the PB&J Club…I immediately knew I wanted to bring it to Byram.” When visiting Chicago, co-president Luke Gastelu noticed a significant increase in homeless people on the streets. He recollects, “Something that really struck me was the lack of dispensable resources available to them at the time, especially food.” Erin and Luke were both inspired to initiate change and created the PB&J Club at Byram during their junior year so that more students could get involved.
Many of the residents of Armonk recognize that we live in, what has been dubbed, “The Armonk Bubble.” Essentially, this concept is the idea that citizens of Armonk seem to have difficulty recognizing that beyond the boundaries of the town exists an entirely different world, one significantly less affluent than ours. We are all susceptible to this perspective occasionally. We get consumed with our own worries, and we often don’t acknowledge how fortunate we are. When asked what message they would like to share, Luke and Erin agreed that it is important to “take the time to act upon the little things you can do to truly change someone’s life.” Hopefully, the efforts of the PB&J Club can be a helpful reminder that it is our responsibility to help the less fortunate in whatever ways we can. Even something as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can make a big impact!