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Third grader organizes dessert drive to feed those in need at Thanksgiving

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AJ Narvaez, a third grader at J. Paul Taylor Academy (JPTA) in Las Cruces, is continuing his commitment to helping those in need.

This year, he helped host a school-wide dessert drive to feed those in need during Thanksgiving, as the school collected desserts and turned them over to chef Frank Duran to include with the holiday meals he prepared on Saturday, Nov. 21, said Robyn Rehbein, AJ’s mom.

Last year, A.J.’s “passion project” was helping to feed the homeless in Las Cruces, Rehbein said.

AJ and Chef Frank met last year when AJ was doing a book report on Clara Barton, the woman who started the Red Cross, Rehbein said. Duran, a Red Cross volunteer, came to JPTA help present AJ's book report to his class.

At the same time, AJ's class was working on passion projects “to learn about needs within our community,” Rehbein said, “looking inward and acting locally to help others.  AJ chose to work on poverty. Chef Frank mentioned that he was going to be feeding homeless individuals in a couple weeks and AJ chose to help as part of his passion project. He collected dessert donations, took them to Frank, and then helped with the event the day of. Duran served 350 meals last year, Rehbein said.

Due to COVID this year, AJ is only able to help collect donations and take them to Frank, who will distribute the items to individuals in need, Rehbein said.

“AJ says he wants to help others because it makes him feel good to help others and to give,” Rehbein said. “He has contributed some of his savings to buying dessert items to donate.”

To donate to AJ’s project

Sealed, store-bought desserts can be dropped off 8 a.m.-3 p.m. through Friday, Nov. 20, in the box outside of J. Paul Taylor Academy, 402 W. Court Ave, building 2, near the corner of Hadley Avenue and Reymond Street. Items do not need to be individually wrapped Examples to donate might include pumpkin pies, cakes, cupcakes or even a package of Oreos. Chef Frank will repackage donatins for distribution.