The story behind the Girl Scouts’ philanthropy begins with Kristi Salveson, a step-down surgical nurse on 9CD. Kristi, who joined Overlook after graduating from nursing school in 2016, lives with her husband Blair, twin daughters Sofia and Ava, and daughter Gia in Basking Ridge. 

“Sofia and Ava, now 11½, have been actively engaged in community service through their local Girl Scout troop since second grade,” says Kristi. “There are 10 girls in the troop and they absolutely love doing things for others.”

Over the years, the girls had all become acquainted with 10½-year-old Gia, the twins’ younger sister, who is legally blind. They watched her struggle with reading and, in the fall of 2019, decided to do a community service project that would raise money to purchase large-print books for local schools. 

In February 2020, the Girl Scouts waged a penny war at Cedar Hill School, which the fifth graders won, raising nearly $2,000. But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, schools transitioned to virtual learning, and Girl Scout meetings had to be conducted via Zoom. 

Meanwhile, Overlook’s 9CD General Surgery and Bariatric Inpatient Unit was transformed into an acute care unit for COVID-positive patients. Kristi and her colleagues worked long hours tending to the needs of the most vulnerable patients. At home, she and her daughters made hundreds of headbands with buttons for attaching the straps of N95 masks so that hospital caregivers could be more comfortable.  

A Change of Plans

As the months went by, the Girl Scouts began to question whether the $2,000 they raised (but had not yet donated) in the penny war might be directed toward a broader purpose. Gia weighed in and said that perhaps the money should help more children, rather than just those with sight issues. 

“Ultimately Sofia came up with a suggestion,” recalls Kristi. “I was driving her to a doctor’s  appointment at Overlook when she noticed the construction by the Emergency Department. I explained they were building the Hersh Children’s Center, a special place for children needing emergency and, if needed, overnight care – all in one convenient location. 

“Sofia was really intrigued. She remembered her own experience a few years ago when she was treated in the Emergency Department for an asthma attack. It was a long night and being in a more child-friendly environment would have eased her anxiety.”

Sofia organized a Zoom call with her Girl Scout troop, told the girls about the Hersh Children’s Center, and explained that they could help more children by donating the money raised in the penny war to the Overlook Foundation. The other girls enthusiastically agreed. 

A Community of Caring

Earlier this year, the now sixth-grade members of Girl Scout Troop 60224 proudly presented a check to the Overlook Foundation to benefit the Hersh Children’s Center. While meeting with our staff, the girls learned about the Foundation’s mission to raise funds that help Overlook keep our communities healthy…especially during an unprecedented pandemic. It turned out that the Foundation’s mission embodied the same guiding principle as their school motto — Honor. Service. Compassion. 

For the Salvesons, the opportunity to give back came full circle. In 2018, the Overlook Foundation awarded Kristi a scholarship for an advanced nursing degree. Last year, she completed her master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner and is currently pursuing her doctor of nursing practice degree in the same specialty.

“I am so grateful for the Foundation’s support of my continuing education,” says Kristi, who has also been administering COVID vaccines at an Atlantic Health System site in Rockaway. “I’m proud to be able to educate others about the work of the Foundation and encourage everyone to give back to the medical center that gives so much to our community. 

“I always tell my girls, ‘Every single one of us has a gift, and we should use that gift to help others. There may be a time when we need people to help us. That is how a caring community works.’”

Preschoolers at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield

Pint-size Philanthropists

Preschoolers at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael in Springfield are proving that it’s never too early to practice Tzedakah, the ethical responsibility to help others based upon the Hebrew word for “righteousness.” Last year, children in the two- and three-year-old classes learned about the health care heroes helping to keep people safe from the virus that was spreading throughout our community. 

“They understood that these heroes might not look like the caped crusaders they see on television, but that their work is just as important,” says Lisa Fraenkel, a preschool teacher at Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael for over 30 years.

Every Friday, as part of their Shabbat celebration, the children bring in coins and place them in a Tzedakah box. Last year’s collection of coins amounted to $450, which the teachers decided to give to an organization benefitting first responders in the community. 

Inspired by Fraenkel, whose family experienced the kindness of Overlook’s caregivers first-hand during the COVID-19 pandemic, the $450 was donated to Overlook Foundation. “Even children as young as two can understand the importance of helping others,” says Fraenkel, “and that’s what this lesson in giving was all about.”