Drives: PRESS: Suburban - Parlin wo
BY BRIAN DONAHUE Staff Writer
Parlin women's drive gains national steam
Bridges of Peace plans first benefit concert in November
BY BRIAN DONAHUE Staff Writer
Bridges of Peace President Diane Eleftheriades (l) and Vice President Karen Bebert pack boxes to be shipped to U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bruce in Iraq. Bruce, a Sayreville police officer and Bridges of Peace board member, asked for packages to be sent to help poor children in the area where he is serving.
SAYREVILLE ? A couple of local residents are responsible for what has become a national effort to provide gifts to poor children in Iraq.
Bridges of Peace, a nonprofit group founded in 2004 in Parlin, invites volunteers to collect items for children and send them to U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq who in turn distribute them in povertystricken areas of the country. Diane Eleftheriades, president of Bridges of Peace, corresponds with the National Iraqi Assistance Center to learn where to ship items, and coordinates the shipments on behalf of anyone wishing to donate.
In the early days of Bridges of Peace, local drives such as one conducted in Sayreville's schools would yield thousands of toys and other items to be sent to children in Iraq. More recently, through the organization's Web site, drives have been held far and wide and shipments sent overseas via instructions on the site.
"We opened our drive nationwide and invited other organizations and individuals to do drives," Eleftheriades said. "The project has really grown."
She noted a school drive conducted in Illinois and one arranged by a pastor in Iowa as recent examples.
"We give them the information they need to run a drive, and the shipping information, and connect them to soldiers in Iraq," she said.
Bridges of Peace, whose vice president is Karen Bebert, also of Parlin, asks that the drives collect stuffed toys, clothes, new shoes, school supplies, children's books, soccer balls, dolls and art supplies.
These days, loads are being shipped to a soldier Eleftheriades knows well ? U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Bruce, a Sayreville police officer now serving in Diyala Province and Sadr City. Bruce, deployed in January as part of the Army's Civil Affairs Company, is on the Board of Directors of Bridges of Peace.
Bruce contacted the other board members recently with the following note:
"Part of my company has picked up one of the poorest, most 'war-torn' areas over here. I think it would be a tremendous opportunity for these guys to have some things to pass out to the kids here. Let me know. ? Rob."
Bruce will leave the area in October but will first set up a new connection for Bridges of Peace, Eleftheriades said.
The group's board was surprised and flattered when its efforts became the subject of a song by none other than folk music legend Pete Seeger, who learned about their work through friend and fellow musician Ray Korona.
"Can you imagine? How wonderful is that?" Eleftheriades said of the song.
According to the group's Web site, Korona told Seeger about the toy drive project that had taken place at Sayreville's schools, and the fact that local children were teaming up with U.S. soldiers for the benefit of Iraqi children. Seeger's reaction was "You know, if Woody Guthrie were around, he would write a ballad about this." Korona responded, "Well, Pete, you and Woody were pals. Why don't you do it?" Seeger said, "Well, I think we should do it together."
The song, a collaboration the two worked on over a period of months, is called "Toys for Peace." One line is "When you make a child smile, you build a bridge to peace."
Eleftheriades notes that is the goal, along with making the soldiers themselves smile. Part of the group's mission is to help bridge relations between the U.S. soldiers and the local people in Iraq.
Bridges of Peace will break new ground this fall when it sponsors its first concert. The "Jersey Shore Jam" benefit show will be held Nov. 23 at The Headliner club in Neptune. The concert will run 3-8 p.m. and will benefit the establishment of Beth Miriam, a house of hospitality in Jersey City, and aid the Bridges of Peace "Help a Child Through a Soldier" project. Artists who have signed on so far include Bob Burger, Boccigalupe and the Bad Boys, the Intentions, Ray Korona, and the Rock n' Roll Chorus. Bridges of Peace is asking companies and individuals to become event sponsors, at $1,000 to $5,000, or program book advertisement sponsors, ranging from $25 to $200.
"This will be our first concert. We're so excited about it," Eleftheriades said.
We're working so hard to make it come together."
For more information about the event or sponsorships, or to learn how to run a drive, visit www.bridgepeace.org or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Toys for Peace," by Ray Korona and Pete Seeger:
Take the turnpike through New Jersey,
where it meets the Garden State.
If you take Exit 11 there instead of
You can visit Sayreville where Diane, a
mother of two,
Saw what war can do to kids
And did what she had to do.
Because we have got to learn
to live in peace some day.
Maybe soldiers with toys, not guns,
will find a better way.
She said school children in Sayreville
Should give a toy or two
To the children in Iraq. They have so
Diane's neighbor Karen agreed
And soon a movement grew.
Would the schools go along?
What else could the school board do?
So they set up big containers
In the schools in Sayreville.
It really was inspiring how quickly they
Sara brought her favorite doll.
She told her not to cry.
Soon she'd have a new best friend.
She kissed that doll goodbye.
The colonel said, "Let's do it!
Yes, we will try your plan.
Our soldiers can give out toys
In Iraq and Afghanistan."
Those soldiers loved to meet the kids.
They hope their visits increase.
When you make a child smile
You build a bridge to peace.
(Repeat chorus and verse one.)