LAS CRUCES – A J. Paul Taylor Academy third-grader is sweetening Thanksgiving dinners this year with a dessert drive that will accompany meals for those in need.
AJ Narvaez, 9, has a passion for helping people. His mother, Robyn Rehbein, said the drive originated as part of a second-grade passion project. AJ chose the subject of poverty for his project and wanted to help those in need.
“I thought of people who have not that much money and I would give that to them. I would give them all they needed like money, a home, food,” AJ said.
Rehbein, a volunteer with the Red Cross, explained that her son teamed up with a fellow Red Cross volunteer in town who feeds those in need in the community. The volunteer, who is shy and didn’t want to provide his name, is a disabled veteran who formerly cooked in the Army. After helping AJ with a book report on Clara Barton — the American nurse who founded the Red Cross in 1881 — the two friends collaborated to help feed the Las Cruces community last year.
The desserts AJ collects in his weeklong drive will be taken to this good Samaritan to be distributed along with the Thanksgiving meals he prepare. Meals will be prepackaged due to COVID-19. Last year, 350 meals were distributed. They decided to continue the dessert drive tradition this year and plan to distribute 400 meals to homeless shelters and camps around town on Nov. 21.
“I have a talent for cooking and a gift to help others. So that’s basically all I’m doing is just helping the less fortunate,” the former Army cook said.
Desserts are being collected this week between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day through Nov. 20 in a box outside the JPTA office at 402 W. Court Ave. Building 2. AJ said he believes his classmates are very excited to help collect desserts. The drive is open to the community as well.
Donations should be sealed, store-bought desserts such as pumpkin pie, cupcakes or a package of cookies. Cash donations are also welcome.
AJ said he loves helping and wants to continue having the dessert drive every year.
“It’s important to me because it pushes me forward to finding new ways to help people,” he said.