Ocean City High School freshman Kelsey Bowman makes the Spoon & Sip Treat Certificates to give to Primary School students. (Photos courtesy OCNJ CARE) By MADDY VITALEOcean City residents are working together to not only get through a tough time in history, but to thrive, with the help of a local organization that has teamed up with the school district to offer activities and assistance for families.Drew Fasy, chairman of OCNJ CARE, a non-profit organization that raises funds, identifies those in need, and delivers aid where needed in the community, said the organization has shifted its focus to the school district, particularly in the area of mental health of students and the overall health and well-being of district families.“We put ourselves in a position to support the school district with the blessing and in communication with the administration,” Fasy explained. “We met with the school administration and have discussed this several times.”Back in July, OCNJ CARE began an initiative for the students and the administration to re-create or replace events during the school year that were not going to be held due to COVID-19 restrictions. “The kids missed out on events, happenings and social activities that really make up part of their social lives and their school lives,” Fasy noted of cancellations since the pandemic hit in March of this year.He said that Schools Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Taylor and High School Principal Dr. Matt Jamison have been very supportive of wellness initiatives and programs for students and their families. The Ocean City district was one of the first in the state to create a wellness center in the high school a few years ago, and just this past year, it opened one at the Intermediate School.“The reality is the school district has a specific role, but it is hard for them in today’s world with time constraints, the pandemic restrictions and other constraints handed down in the state. So we wanted to be in a support role to help them accomplish things for families,” Fasy explained.The Holiday Food Drive runs through Nov. 20.OCNJ CARE recently partnered with the Intermediate School to host a holiday food drive to help families in need.Students are encouraged to bring in canned or boxed goods to their homeroom. Students in Virtual Academy, the district’s online learning program, can drop off items to the school between Nov. 1 and Nov. 20 to help support the community. OCNJ CARE is in charge of the distribution of the food.And just this week, OCNJ CARE and the Primary School joined forces to offer a replacement event for the big Halloween parade, done each year at the school.Local business Spoon & Sip at 838 Asbury Ave. teamed up with the nonprofit to offer free ice cream gift certificates to Primary School students as part of a Halloween celebration at the school. The event, held for students on Tuesday and Thursday, gave kids the opportunity to dress in their Halloween costumes.“The Primary School always did a Halloween parade and the fire department would be there handing out candy,” Fasy noted. “It was really a neat event, but with restrictions on numbers of people, they couldn’t hold the parade this year.” Instead, the students had a small parade without spectators. “Unfortunately, there couldn’t be parents there. We try to replace or re-create whatever events the kids may possibly miss,” Fasy said. “The events may not look or feel the same, but at least it is something we could provide for the kids that they can enjoy.”Members of the Ocean City High School Key Club also helped out.“They offered to volunteer with OCNJ CARE to cheer on the kids at the parade, while handing out coupons,” Fasy said.Primary School third-grader Cove Chew, of Ocean City, dressed as a “nerd” for the Halloween parade on Tuesday. Her mother, Suzanne Chew, said Cove had a blast.“Nothing like a last minute costume creation before school — real costume did not come in, but I think she looked adorable and it was a huge success,” Chew said in a post on Instagram.Fasy said in addition to the school district, OCNJ CARE works with the Ocean City Ecumenical Council, an association of local churches that helps families in need. The nonprofit also works with the Ocean City Housing Authority.He said the Ecumenical Council’s Food Pantry typically delivers food to the Housing Authority units, but stopped due to COVID-19. OCNJ CARE is going to be handling the food deliveries with the help of the high school Key Club.“We are collecting food for seniors in the Housing Authority and delivering it to them on a monthly basis,” he said. “The Key Club will also be doing some of the deliveries.”For more information about OCNJ CARE visit www.ocnjcare.orgThird-grader Cove Chew dresses as a “nerd” for the Primary School Halloween Parade.