Person of the Week: Jennifer Olawski

Photo Credit: Steve Hockstein, NorthJersey.com.

Photo Credit: Steve Hockstein, NorthJersey.com.

Christmas is one of the happiest days of the year for kids all across the country. Thanks to one special soul, this year that feeling was given to 500 young students.

I remember two years ago, when Starbucks decided to remove the religious symbols of Christmas from its coffee cups. Many Evangelical Christians were up in arms over the supposed “attack” on their most important holiday. Supporters of the move argued that Christmas can still hold its religious significance while the spirit of the holiday is shared with other religious sects and belief systems. Not sure which side of the aisle you may find yourself on, but I hope we can all agree that this much is true: the spirit of Christmas, to give rather than receive, should be preserved, cherished and SHARED.

Jennifer Olawski, a Paterson, New Jersey elementary school Physical Education teacher perfectly embodies the spirit of Christmas. Recently, Olawski gifted 500 students at Community Charter School each with a gift to commemorate the holidays. Motivated by the lack of enthusiasm toward the holiday by a student over a year ago, she developed a GoFundMe campaign where she raised $2,500 to buy each student an art set. This year the initiative yielded over $4,700 since going live on Halloween.

Raising the money, as impressive as it is, was just one aspect of Olawski’s accomplishment. She also spent hours personally purchasing, transporting, and wrapping each gift. Keep in mind her 8-to-6 work schedule.

Photo Credit: KSL 5 TV, New Jersey Community Development Corporation.

Photo Credit: KSL 5 TV, New Jersey Community Development Corporation.

Olawski gifted gloves and hats to every kid after noticing that many often come to school with neither in the dead of winter. Numerous reports claim that the majority of the students at her school come from families that live below the poverty line.

The spirit of Christmas doesn’t have to be directly associated with the giving and receiving of gifts, nor the traditional aspects of Christ represented. It’s in the feeling of sharing and the heartfelt actions towards the betterment of the lives of the people around us. I hope we can all agree on that. This Holiday Season, I challenge you all to ask yourselves the following question, what have I done to make the lives of the people in my life better?

I hope the answer comes from the same place as did the motivation that gave us Jennifer Olawski...the heart. Track the 500 Presents 500 Smiles GoFundMe HERE.