Academy Men Rally Behind Thanksgiving Collections for Local Community

A hallmark of each November at Christian Brothers Academy has always been Campus Ministry’s Thanksgiving Food Drive.

However, this is not just any November and it is certainly not just any school year.

Given the hardships that so many have experienced amid the pandemic, CBA students showed the true meaning of serving and standing for those in need, as it states in the Academy Oath. In just the Thanksgiving Food Drive, which runs for four weeks prior to the holiday, the CBA student body collected over 32,000 items for seven different food pantries and shelters in the area.

“Throughout a fall with constant challenges and uncertainty, our students’ commitment to serving those in need has never wavered,” Principal Ross Fales said. “I am extremely proud of our Academy men for their efforts in not only donating a record number of food drive items this Thanksgiving season, but also the consistency with which they have been selflessly giving since the start of the school year. They continue to rise to the occasion, despite their own setbacks due to these unusual and difficult circumstances.”

The Food Drive had to understandably take on a different look this year, with the CBA community being conscious of the current health protocols. However, Campus Minister Mr. Matt Butler encouraged the student body to do what they could, albeit in a safe and cautious manner.

Academy men organized small outings to local stores to purchase items to donate. In fact, a few student-athletes on the varsity swim team were able to donate over 1,500 food items thanks to an anonymous donor who they met at Costco. This generous individual respected what the students were trying to do and wanted to contribute to the good cause, asking the boys to pay forward the gesture sometime in the future.

When CBA was in its virtual learning period, Butler drew up a “drop-off day” on campus, where students could come and contribute to the food drive, while keep their distance outside of Henderson Hall. Nearly 70 students showed up to help sort and load approximately 6,000 items that were donated just that afternoon.

“I am so proud of the big showing on the drop-off day and throughout the drive,” Butler said. “It became the best drive in years because of the students’ commitment to service, and the help of the parents who supported the cause.”

Quality, Not Just Quantity

One of the parents who has been instrumental in multiple food drives is Mr. Jon D’Orsi ’89.

As the owner of the ShopRite in Carteret, D’Orsi has stressed the importance of not only donating a large quantity of food items, but also contributing quality nutrition to local food banks.

“A lot of times, parents and students will just try to clean out their home pantry during these donations,” D’Orsi said. “While any donation is helpful, most food banks are looking to stock up on protein items like chicken, tuna and beans.”

D’Orsi partnered with the varsity crew team to help donate high quality items in large loads. In fact, the crew student-athletes were able to contribute over 13,000 items alone.

The crew team loading up their donations from D'Orsi's ShopRite.

On the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the team gathered at D’Orsi’s ShopRite to load their items into eight pick-up trucks and deliver them to Keyport.

With a similar idea of hearty food donations, another group of students from the Brick Township area, led by Miles ’23 and Tristan’24 McFarlane, delivered 30 whole turkeys to Lunch Break in Red Bank on the weekend before Thanksgiving. This group of nine Academy men have donated to Lunch Break five separate times this fall.

More Than A Food Drive

While food item donations are critically important, there is a need for much more in the local community.

Butler and Christian Service seniors started collections for both women and baby products to deliver to women’s shelters. Donations of hygiene products, diapers and toys have been sent to shelters in the greater Monmouth County area.

Students also came together to pack about 1,000 ready-made lunches that would be sent to pantries and shelters for the typical lunchtime rush that these organizations experience. Perhaps one of the most important initiatives was a winter coat drive, which produced over 150 warm clothing items for the cold months ahead.

Mr. Speidel collected over $600 in gift cards for families battling childhood cancer.

Senior Ed Massell is one of the Christian Service students who has been very active in this fall’s collections.

“The adversity that the student body has faced amid such a difficult year has certainly brought us together,” Massell said. “I feel that such adversity has opened the eyes of CBA students to the hardships others face. Especially now in the holiday season, there are many who are less fortunate than we are. I am very proud of the CBA student body’s participation in this year’s collections.”

The always-supportive CBA faculty and staff were integral in both the food drive and other initiatives. Longtime mathematics teacher Mr. Jim Speidel organized a collection of over $600 in gift cards that were sent to the Emmanuel Cancer Society. The gift cards aimed to provide parents a way to give children battling cancer an extra gift this holiday season.

Year-Round Commitment 

Ultimately, the student body comes together as one to donate their time and resources toward those who are less fortunate. While the Thanksgiving season certainly highlights this, it very much is the mindset of the CBA community throughout the school year.

With more people struggling as the pandemic lingers, CBA Campus Ministry will not stop its community outreach just because the Thanksgiving holiday passes.

“From ready-made lunches to winter clothing, Mr. Butler and our students have supported those in our local community who have been severely affected by the pandemic’s economic challenges,” Fales said. “These initiatives are something we all can be profoundly grateful for this year and truly make the Academy a special community to be a part of.”

About Christian Brothers Academy:
Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) is a private, Catholic, academic preparatory school for boys located in Lincroft, New Jersey. Founded in 1959 and taught in the Lasallian tradition, CBA is dedicated to helping students become intellectually mature and morally responsible leaders for society. Through generous contributions from family and friends of the Academy, CBA awards over $1.9 million in scholarships and financial aid to current students. Experience the Academy at