Bradley Ferguson, 16, of Northfield, N.J., a sophomore at Mainland Regional High School, started a service-learning club that over the past three years has supported veterans and people in need by refurbishing an American Legion post, collecting food for a community food bank, making lunches for homeless people, and growing fresh produce at several community gardens. When Bradley was in seventh grade, he saw many people in his town lose their jobs and, ultimately, their homes. In an area reeling from the recession, the demand for food was so high that the local food banks were running low on supplies, he said. One day, Bradley watched in horror as a desperate veteran set himself on fire outside the local VA clinic. “This is an image that will never be deleted from my mind,” he said. “His death serves as an inspiration to me to create change.”
With $123,000 in grants obtained by Bradley, his “Post Crashers” club has conducted numerous activities to aid veterans and feed the hungry. Club members and other volunteers helped refurbish the local American Legion post by painting it, replacing tiles, updating the kitchen, and decorating the facility. They also cleared the backyard to build a “victory garden” and a community picnic area. Post Crashers also has made nearly 2,000 sack lunches for the homeless and for veterans living in transitional housing, collected large amounts of nonperishable food items for veterans and a food bank, and worked on gardens that have yielded more than 1,500 pounds of fresh produce for the hungry.