By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW — School Resource Officer Joan Marsilia has an appointment for a haircut on Dec. 21, whether she keeps it or not is completely up to Timberlane Regional High School students.
Marsilia has issued a challenge to students. If the students raise $5,000, she will have her head shaved in front of the entire student body.
It is all part of a fundraising series for Mealey’s Meals, which will provide food and other necessities to close to 150 families throughout the district who could use help around the holidays.
All the money goes to families who qualify for the reduced lunch program the school system offers. Guidance counselors and teachers also recommend families who could benefit from extra money at the holidays. Instead of receiving cash, each family will receive gift cards for groceries or gas.
Initially, if the students raised $1,000, several male teachers at the school agreed to have their heads shaved at the annual teacher/student basketball game which happens the day before winter vacation each year.
But Marsilia decided to up the ante.
“That amount of money wasn’t enough,” Marsilia said. “I needed to light a fire under the students so they would be serious about this.”
The goal is now $5,000 and students have right up until the game on Dec. 21 to get the money in.
“I’m happy to do it, but it’s not about me though,” Marsilia said. “It’s about the kids donating money to their fellow students who aren’t as fortunate.”
Mealey’s Meals originated in 1980 when former teacher William Mealey Sr. started collecting money in his Advanced Placement U.S. history class. It quickly expanded throughout the entire school. Mealey’s son Bill, a special education teacher at the school, headed it for several years.
“It’s exciting to see how everyone comes together to help,” said Carolyn Morse, a Spanish teacher at Timberlane who heads the fundraisers. “Each year, the need is more and more.”
The school will hold several raffles and events, with all proceeds going to Mealey’s Meals. Organizers have set a goal for the students to raise more than $10,000 through all the fundraisers by Dec. 21.
The first event will be on Dec. 13 when The Milkmen, the school’s comedy club, will hold a show at the school from 6 to 8 p.m.
“That’s my favorite event each year,” senior Becky Walleston said. “I enjoy watching the show and it gives me a sense of satisfaction to know that we are helping people.”
Walleston said she joined the Students of Service last year after seeing a flier and wanting to get involved with community service. Walleston and her peers rotate sitting at a table in the cafeteria during lunch periods, where they collect donations and inform students about their upcoming programs.
One of the biggest events this year will be a vendor fair on Dec. 16 in the Timberlane cafeteria. More than 30 vendors are participating in the fair . They will sell jewelry, clothing, accessories and much more. All vendors pay a fee to participate, which supports Mealey’s Meals.
All third-period classes are competing to see which class can raise the most money in a coin drive. The class which raises the most money will win a breakfast. The money raised in the coin drive will contribute to the $5,000 needed for Marsilia’s haircut
The basketball game will cap the fundraisers. The entire school will be watching to see if they have raised enough money to shave Marsilia’s head. Students will be able to donate money right up until the time Marsilia approaches the barber’s chair.
“Even if we are short, we are going to ask students to dig in their pockets right then and there,” Marsilia said. “If every student were to donate one dollar at the assembly, that’s about $500 right there.”
In the meantime, Marsilia is trying to convince her fellow officers to join her.
“I’ve already asked Deputy (Chief Kathleen) Jones,” Marsilia said. “She said absolutely not.”
Marsilia said she isn’t nervous as the date approaches and has had full support from her friends, family and colleagues. There is still one person she has hesitated to tell.
“I haven’t told my stylist yet,” Marsilia said. “That will be an interesting conversation.”