During our lifetime we want to leave a “footprint” to represent what we stood for in our life. Hoping that we one day make a difference in our school, community, or even world, that people will remember for years and years to come. That is exactly what one 14-year-old girl from Green Township did. Isobel Costello is the creator of The Weekend Bag Program, a non-profit designed to help students students whose families can not afford essentials like food and hygiene products. Since kids are provided with food at school during the week, Isobel bags the food and other essentials that she gets from donations and takes them to the school for pick up and use over the weekend, hence the name The Weekend Bag Program. Isobel is a patient, passionate, focused, strong, and an exemplary citizen who would do anything for this program. She’s regularly hosting fundraisers, contacting large companies, getting her 501(c)(3), and so much more. When talking to this now 18 year old, it’s no surprise she was able to start this all when she was just a freshman in high school.
Going into high school Isobel was feeling nervous and disconnected like every kid transitioning into a new school with new people. But it was different for Isobel, she had never played sports, she was more into playing instruments, so she didn’t know as many people as her peers. That’s why it was even more of a shock when she found out that some of her new friends only had school lunch as their only hot meal during the day, and on the weekend they would struggle. She learned her peers even struggled to get essential things like toothpaste, hand soap, and deodorant. Isobel was shocked that people in her hometown were struggling to just keep their heads above water. Obviously she knew of poverty and the pains that came with it but in her own hometown? On one bus ride home, Isobel could not just forget about her peers in poverty so an idea sparked inside of her. Instead of feeling bad and moving on, waiting for the next person to handle this apparent problem Isobel began thinking of how she could put a stop to empty bellies and unsure weekends. That day, she unleashed a plan that would change people’s lives forever. She told her mom that some of her friends were almost starved every weekend because they just couldn’t afford the food. She then proposed that they try to get the neighborhood and surrounding areas to donate any food or hygienic things they could to an anonymous nonprofit program, that would help kids and families they’ve grown up with. Like all movements, it took a little while to catch on, so donations were not rolling in as fast as needed. Isobel took it upon herself to go bulk shopping every week, buying essentials, bagging them, and later dropping them off at the school. But soon enough donation slowly but surely started coming in. This one idea began to ripple out and began something extraordinary.
Watch full interview with Isobel and Olivia Costello of The Weekend Bag.
After awhile donations were coming in hot! One farm had a surplus of Turkeys which ended up being donated to the organization, so some households had fresh turkeys one night. The company was growing, and while she started at Newton High School, she was able to offer the same to other surrounding schools. Private donations came in. Boy scouts, girl scouts, churches, sports organizations, stores, were all helping out by running fundraisers or raising awareness of topics like these. Weis Supermarket also started to donate surplus and run their donation program for Isobel’s cause. People even donated money. Every dollar that was donated, was put right back into the organization.
As things progressed, Isobel was really getting the hang of all this. On holidays she would put in some surprise items for the kids. On Easter chocolate bunnies were put in, in the winter hot chocolate mix was added, and little odds and ends. The little things she did, made the world’s difference to these people. She made sure that every meal given could be easily prepared by young children in case they had a situation where parents or older siblings were unable to. She also made sure who the contributions were going to was anonymous. Knowing adolescent and teenage kids already have to deal with the pressures of school and friends, taking away having to explain that their households couldn’t afford essentials was stress relieving. The program was reaching lower grades like middle and elementary. Things went beyond Isobel’s expectations!
After four years of running this program, things were coasting for Isobel and her Weekend Bag Program. But then the Coronavirus hit and Isobel feared her Weekend Bag recipients that depended on hot school meals were going to get cast aside. So what Isobel did during this time was amazing. She didn’t lose sight of what was important. When asked how she dealt with the pandemic she said this, “You can’t have success without a bit of a setback.” Isobel is 18. She is 18 and she refers to COVID as a bit of a setback. She powered through this “little setback” as if it was a normal year. She reached out to her school to get Weekend Bag Program as a club, communicating with big food companies, doing everything she could to keep those families from panicking. She said that big companies were easy to contact but hard to get actual results from. Even then she didn’t stop.
As Isobel got momentum, some things had fallen her way at times as well. Like earlier in this year, she found a deal on toilet paper so she made a very large bulk purchase. That proved to be well timed gamble. So while most Americans couldn’t buy a roll of toilet paper, Isobel’s Weekend Bag recipients were well stocked.
Isobel just recently graduated from her high school and is now planning on attending Loyola and pursuing a political science major. This academic program goes in line with her ultimate goal. “Ever since I was in kindergarten I’ve wanted to be the President of the United States”, Isobel says with a confident smile. “It’s a lofty goal so who knows what will happen. And I am not saying I need to be the ultimate person in charge. I just want to be part of making things change for the better” she smartly added.
With Isobel heading off to college in New Orleans, don’t think Isobel will let the Weekend Bag Program fade away. He session plan is to entrust her two sisters and her mom to take over the company. Olivia, an incoming freshman, is already developing a plan to take the surplus from school lunches and turning them into leftovers for the weekend. She’s also thinking about growing the company across the country. Isobel’s college wants her to bring it to their board, so maybe soon we will see Weekend Bag Program from sea to shining sea.
Isobel hopes to inspire others with as well. “If you ever have a crazy idea…and are willing to work, to make a change.” She adds that age shouldn’t be a deterrent. “Being a kid doesn’t hold you back from making a difference in your community or world!”
During the Morris Sussex Sports Talk Show on July 17th, host George Muha, who was visibly impressed with Isobel’s industriousness, proclaimed, “We at Morris Sussex Sports make it a point to stay away from political topics but we are going to make an exception. I am here to announce today that Morris Sussex Sports is officially endorsing Isobel Costello for President of the United States in 2040.” With what Isobel has done in the last four years, there is no telling what she’ll do with the next 20.
Learn more, find out how you can help or donate to the Weekend Bag Program by visiting their website.