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Writing for a Cause — Project Give!

By Danielle Mahoney on October 26, 2010

Want to get involved with a special project this Thanksgiving? Help me as I deliver food to homebound seniors in New York City on Thanksgiving Day. Being a part of this special event is easy. Inspire your students to create handmade cards and write special messages that will lift spirits and spread joy throughout New York City. Find out how "Project Give" got started and learn about ways you can get your students to write for a cause!



Creating a New Thanksgiving Tradition

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. Spending an entire day surrounded by my family and close friends is a treasured gift. Add some stuffing, zucchini bread, and warm apple pie, and it’s a dream come true! 

Four years ago, I decided to break my Thanksgiving tradition. I thought about how lucky I was to have so much to be thankful for. I knew that there were those who didn’t have quite as much. I had always thought about serving food to people in need on Thanksgiving Day, and I finally decided to put my plan into action. However, it didn’t turn out quite the way I expected.

After a little research, I came across Project FIND, an organization with a mission to provide low- and moderate-income and homeless seniors with services and support they need to enrich their lives and live independently. They were hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for 1,200 seniors in the heart of New York City and needed servers. I was thrilled to help out. When I spoke with Debra Escort, director of special projects, she offered me a different volunteer opportunity. She explained that each year, she was fortunate to find enough volunteers to help out with serving. Where she really needed help was with the delivery of hot food to homebound seniors. These were seniors who couldn’t make it out to the different dining halls around the city for this event. Many of them would be home alone on Thanksgiving.

Then she asked me a question that would change my holiday tradition forever. “Danielle, would you consider being a driver on Thanksgiving?” She explained that there would be 300 homebound seniors waiting for the delivery of a hot meal on Thanksgiving Day. Without drivers, they would go hungry, as most support services would be closed for the holiday.

She informed me that along with the hot meal, I would also be delivering a gift bag to the seniors. “A gift bag?” I thought, “How exciting!”  When I heard what was inside, I almost cried. Debra explained to me that the gift was food.


You see, inside each gift bag was an assortment of dry goods — food that could be prepared for the next day. Most support services would continue to be closed on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Without this “gift,” the seniors would go hungry. With a lump in my throat, I agreed to become a driver that year, and I've been a volunteer driver with Project FIND ever since.  




Putting Plans Into Action

Solomon The first year that I delivered Thanksgiving meals, I invited my class to help out with spreading Thanksgiving cheer to the homebound seniors.

I came across Cynthia Rylant’s book An Angel for Solomon Singer, which was the perfect read-aloud to set up the card making project. The main character, Solomon Singer, is a lonely man, living in a run-down hotel for men in New York City. In addition to reading the book, I also showed the children the faces of some of the seniors on Project FIND’s home page.



Over the course of a few days, my 2nd graders thoughtfully wrote 50 heartwarming cards to the seniors. We tried hard not to say things like, "Sorry you’re alone on Thanksgiving," as we figured that those words wouldn’t really help with cheering them up! Instead, we brainstormed some ideas. We wrote a little bit about ourselves, described our plans for Thanksgiving, and sent the seniors messages of friendship and love. The end result was beautiful.


With the cards in hand, I set out to New York City on Thanksgiving morning. I dodged Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade traffic and watched as the floats made their way across 57th street and down Broadway. (See Dora and Hello Kitty below!)


With a special permit, I crossed police road blocks and made it to The Church of St. Paul the Apostle, where dinner was being cooked for the homebound seniors. I was speechless and honored to be a part of this amazing day. I entered a large room filled with gift bags and instantly felt inspired. Seeing all of the bags lined up, one behind the next, really put things into perspective.



 I carefully tucked the cards inside the gift bags before the delivery and then off we went.

Photos below: Here I am with my good friend Maritza on Thanksgiving of last year. We filled the trunk of her car up with Thanksgiving goodies and were ready to start delivering!



The response from the seniors was overwhelming. In a letter from Project FIND, Debra Escort writes:

"Please thank your students for us. The seniors who received your cards last year were so grateful. When we make home visits, we still see the cards somewhere on their walls or somewhere nearby. Any amount of cards your group can donate is very much appreciated by all."

Wow! The seniors kept the cards up on the walls of their tiny apartments, long after Thanksgiving was over? Incredible. I knew that the following year, our card making project would have to be bigger and better!  And so, over the next two years, I invited my amazing teacher friends and their students to be a part of this special mission. Together we created over 1,000 cards that were delivered along with the hot meals.

Project Give!

Now, here’s where you come in! This will be my fourth year delivering food, and I need your help. This year, I am calling our mission "Project Give." Won’t you help me fill each and every gift bag with at least two homemade cards from a student who cares? In addition, we can add a card to the table settings at the dining halls around the city, allowing over 1,000 seniors to know that they are not alone this Thanksgiving.


With your help, they will have many friends from around the world who are thinking of them. 

To understand the true importance of this mission, please read about one special senior named Beverly, who truly touched our hearts in an editorial, "Giving Is a Privilege," which was featured in the Queens Gazette in 2008. 


What should your cards include? 

  • Greeting: "Dear Friend" or "Dear Senior." 
  • Start by having your students introduce themselves, but please leave out last names. 
  • Encourage students to write about their favorite book or favorite sport. 
  • Students can write about their favorite subject in school or about their favorite activity. 
  • Students can tell their senior to enjoy the delicious meal and know that they are not alone. 
  • Please include a bright illustration. 
  • Get creative! 
  • Have fun!  

Here are a few examples of cards made across grades: 




Are you ready to help?! Thanksgiving is just a month away. Collect as many cards as you can from your students over the next few weeks. Share this post via email or on your Facebook page and invite your teacher friends to get involved as well. Ask your principal, the school secretaries and librarian, the custodians, the parents, and anyone else you can think of to write out a card and include those, too! Whether you send one card, or a class set of 30, your efforts will be truly appreciated. Thank you for writing for a cause. Place your completed cards in a large envelope and mail them to me by November 15th. 

Please mail your cards to:

Project Give
P.S. 212
c/o Miss Mahoney
34-25 82nd Street
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
Here’s to a very happy Thanksgiving.

Comments (30)

Dear Danielle,

Thank you so much for organizing such a wonderful project to help others! My entire 2nd Grade Class made cards to send! We also had others classes in our Elementary School participate as well. In the end we sent in over 100 cards! We would love to hear several stories about the people you shared our warm wishes with during Thanksgiving. :) Thank you for making a difference!


Mrs. J

Hey Danielle, I stumbled upon your blog. This is the first I've heard of your activities in nearly a decade, and it's funny; I see your blog post and say to myself: she hasn't changed a bit (same face, same big heart). As they teach in the chemistry classes, the element gold does not change its intrinsic characteristics over time.

Hi Mahdia!

Thank you so much. You are very sweet. Remember, I have lots and lots of help from so many thoughtful teachers and wonderful students around the world. I couldn't do any of this alone. We all do our part to help others!!

=) Danielle

u r great ms. mahoney u r really doing a great job on helping others

Hi Kim, Thanks for wanting to take part in the project. I see that you have a giving spirit!! Wonderful!!

You know, if you look into local rehabilitation facilities, many times they have seniors living there in long term care. I am sure that they would love to hear from you. It may be too late to get the cards mailed to New York, but you can certainly look into getting involved with a project in your neighborhood. Inquiring about ways to help at a local hospital might work as well. Best of luck to you! Let me know if you find something that works in your area!! Happy Thanksgiving! =) Danielle

Hey Mandi! Sorry I didn't catch your comment sooner! No worries about the cards because - I have them here in my hands!!! They made it safely from California!! Mil gracias! ;) And yes, each one of these cards will be put into the hands of someone who could use a little Thanksgiving cheer!

Please thank your students for me. =) Danielle

Okay, I was a little late on reading this but could you tell me how you found out about this? I am in MI and am wondering if there is something like that here? Any ideas as to how I can find out? Thanks! You are a very generous person!

I'm last minute but I am mailing you a box of cards today the 15th! I wasn't sure if I should mail them by today or have them to you by today. I hope they make it okay an dyou are able to use them. We're a K-8 school and the 8th graders made some cards in Spanish because they have a Spanish teacher here. I hope you can find good homes to send those to. Take care!

Hi Karen!!!

Thank you soooo much for your kind words. I was really touched by your comment. Top Teaching can be a lot of work! =) Your words make it all worth it! Thank you for taking the time to write.

The bookmarks are a lot of fun for me to make and seem to keep kids engaged in their work. I'm glad that your students are using them! (I'll have an independent writing chart ready for you to download in my next post. I hope you'll like it!)

Thank you for the feedback on the October book picks. Sometimes it is difficult to know whether or not teachers are actually using this stuff! Hahah! Yes, I'm working on a November book list at the moment. With so many great books out there, it's great to have a way to share my favorites with other teachers across grades.

The reading work is what I love to do most. I'm happy to hear that the goal sheets are working out for you.

I look forward to getting the cards written by your students. Thank them for me in advance!! With just a few weeks before Thanksgiving, the excitement is really starting to build. Having teachers like you who are open to new ideas and are able to tailor resources to fit the needs of their students, makes this work meaningful and important.

Thanks again for the inspiration, Karen! =) Danielle

Hi Danielle, I absolutely LOVE your blog! I am so glad you are part of the Scholastic Top Teaching staff. I have already incorporated so many of your wonderful ideas into my classroom. I have my student talk back to their books with post-its (got that idea from Beth) and your bookmarks are such a great tool for the kids to refer back to. I have created a class poster of it and each student has one of your adorable bookmarks. I have used many of the books you recommend in your October book picks... are you planning one for November? :) I have even tailored your reading goals sheets to meet the needs of my students. I love the charity work you are doing for Thanksgiving to cheer up homebound seniors. I have shared your idea with my grade level colleagues, so expect letters from us soon! I just wanted to thank you for sharing so many wonderful and inspirational ideas. Our students are reaping the benefits. :)

Great, Elena! I'm so glad that you joined in on the fun! Yes, please share the project with the teachers in your school. We have lots of bags to stuff and we could use their help! Thanks for taking the time to do this great work with your students! =) Danielle

Thank you, Gena! I will post a comment when they arrive!!!

So far I've received 47 cards from Ms. Stephanie Caldon and the students from P.S. 38 Q and 2 cards from a little girl named, Julia from Manhasset, NY.

I'm anxiously waiting for more!!!

=) Danielle

Hi Justine! Thank YOU for taking the time to get your students involved! What you hit on is sooo important. EVERYONE has something to give! We may not have lots of money, or material things to offer up to help others, but we always have our well wishes to share. I am so glad that you are giving your students an opportunity to reach out to others. I can't wait to get all of their cards.

=) Danielle

I will have the student write the letters and see if the rest of our second grade classes will be interested. I will hopefully have the letters for you by the end of next week. It's a great thing you are doing. Awesome!!!!!

A class set is on its way.

Hello Danielle! What a phenomenal idea! I am going to introduce the project to my kids tomorrow. My students don't come from very wealthy homes, and therefore often cannot donate food/clothing/money this time of year. I am glad to finally have a meaningful way for my kids to reach out to others and give back this Thanksgiving:)

Thank you so much!

Hi Christine!

Thank you for getting your second graders involved! I hope they have a great time making the cards. I appreciate your efforts and look forward to getting your package all the way from New Jersey!

;) Danielle

Hi Danielle!

I think this is such a wonderful idea! I teach second grade in New Jersey and I am so excited that I can get my students involved in such a terrific activity. I will have them get started on their cards and send them to you as soon as they are all complete. I will also let the other teachers in my school know about this. :)


Hey Elena!

YES! We still need cards!! The first package to Project Give arrived at my school yesterday. There were 47 amazing cards inside. There are over 1,000 seniors who need to be cheered up this Thanksgiving, so every little bit helps! Please get started and send the cards to the address above by November 15! Thanks so much for helping!

=) Danielle

Glad that you're getting your second graders involved, Ro!!!

I'm sure that the cards your students create will be beautiful works of art. It really makes all the difference when some extra special care goes into the card making. I can't wait to see them! Thank YOU for helping. I couldn't do any of this alone! (That's for sure!) Tell your students that I send my thanks to them as well!

=) Danielle

Hi Laurie! I'm so glad that Christy shared the link! I can't wait to see the cards from your Girl Scouts!

I was thinking. . . I just found out that the Girl Scouts have these really cute and fun badges you can earn for doing different types of community service. How many girls do you think will be involved in the actual card making? I may have something special to give back to each one of the girls! When you mail out the cards to me, please include the number of girls with the troop and a return address!

Thanks so much for getting involved with such an important project! It means so much to me!

=) Danielle

I love this. Do you still need cards. I would be happy to do this..


I am so excited about having my second graders make cards. They are great artists and love helping others. We will get started right away. Thanks for all that you do to help others and to get others to help.

Hi Danielle: I saw this post from Christy Crawford's facebook page and I wanted to let you know that my fourth grade junior Girl Scout troop is making cards this week. Looking forward to sharing your generous spirit and great idea with the girls!

Eve!!! I'm so happy to hear that you're going to get your kids working on this! I look forward to getting their cards. Thank you so much!

=) Danielle

Hey Danielle, I'm getting my students started this week. What a great project!

Hi Jen! Thanks for jumping right on board again this year. You've given me cards from your students since the very first Thanksgiving I helped out Project FIND. The cards you make each year are done with so much care and thoughtfulness. Thanks for putting all that you have into this!!

=) Danielle

Hi Kate! Thanks so much for getting the message out to your teacher friends. This is something that I can't do alone- so the more help, the better! It is very exciting to be a part of a project you know will make a difference. We each have so much to share with others. . . Sometimes we just need to be asked to do it!

=) Danielle

Card making here we come. I can't wait to start making the cards with my class. I am going to start next week. Every year the kids have such a great time maing these fabulous cards. I can't wait to start.


Wow--Danielle what an amazing project...I am going out to my teacher friends and send this out to get the cards for your baskets...what a special person you are!

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