Students provide Easter surprises for families in need

April Helms
Akron Beacon Journal
Nordonia High School senior Grace Renier, 18, with some of the 185 Easter Baskets she made for the Emergency Assistance Center.

NORTHFIELD CENTER -- Families with younger children needing the assistance of The Emergency Assistance Center this month may find an extra sweet surprise waiting for them.

Thanks to the efforts of Nordonia High School's National Honor Society, St. Barnabas Catholic School, and the National Honor Society at Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, 185 Easter baskets were recently donated to TEAC.

Joyce Hunt, the executive director with TEAC, said the baskets will be distributed to families with children ages 11 and younger.

"These baskets will bring much joy to the parents and children that we serve," Hunt said. "Each one is very well done and has candy and toys, art supplies and/or stuffed animals. It really brightens the Center and brings a smile to our face every time we look at them."

Grace Renier, 18, helped coordinate the other "Easter bunnies" at her school's NHS and at the other schools, Hunt said. Renier also headed up the program last year as well.

"Grace did an excellent job organizing this," Hunt said. "We are so grateful for her big heart."

Renier, who graduates this year from Nordonia High School, said she first became involved when there was "an opening for the leadership of this project" through National Honor Society.

"I love volunteering, and I'd never done a service project before, so it was the perfect opportunity to work with my community and get involved," Renier said. 

Renier said the baskets will be distributed at TEAC through the month of March, before Easter.

This year was a challenge to coordinate putting together the baskets due to the pandemic, Renier said. Still, they were able to assemble about as many this year as they did last year. The bulk of the baskets were put together by the Nordonia High School NHS at a one-hour meeting. In all, 100 baskets were put together during that meeting and later delivered to TEAC.

"We scaled back on how many baskets we made at our meeting," Renier said. "We had everything spread out. We had hand sanitizer and everyone wore masks."

On another weekend, Renier said she and her family also made the other 85 Easter baskets. 

Gary Rybka, the NHS adviser at Walsh Jesuit, said that the organization donated $450 to help purchase goodies to fill the baskets with.

"It comes from our yearly dues," Rybka said. "With money collected over the years, we have a nice fund to give to deserving groups."

Rybka said that Walsh Jesuit's NHS has been working with Nordonia High School for the past three years on this Easter basket collection."

"Hats off to the people at Nordonia as they do the bulk of the work," Rybka said. "In years past, we collected the basket materials and sent them to Nordonia.  This year was tough as the school had a short remote learning time that coincided with our collection.  This is the reason that money was given instead."  

Erin Faetanini, the principal at St. Barnabas School, said the school's students worked to collect the candy that was included in the baskets.

"St. Barnabas Student Council ran the candy drive," Faetanini said. "The collection was part of our Catholic Schools Week, Go Make a Difference, service project.  All grades prekindergarten through eight were involved in the collection.  Bags of candy were collected Jan. 25 through 29.  Students earned a raffle ticket to win a basket of school supplies for each bag of candy a student contributed." 

Faetanini said that the school donated more than 10 boxes and 250 bags of candy.  

Renier said the program had been started by someone else previously, and she hoped it would continue after her graduation.

After graduation, Renier, who lives in Sagamore Hills, will attend Miami University to study nursing. She currently works at Vista Springs Ravinia, an assisted living facility in Independence.

Hunt said that The Emergency Assistance Center served 517 Individuals in February. This includes 202 households, and includes 159 senior citizens and 133 children. There were 10 new households who were assisted last month, with a total of 17 people.

The Emergency Assistance Center is at 9199 Olde Eight Road, Suite C in Northfield Center. For details, call 330-467-7945  or visit online.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at