Volume 17 • Issue 34 • Jan. 14 - 20, 2005

Downtown Express photo by Elisabeth Robert

Hana Dehovitz, 10, collects a heavy load of books for a customer as Andrea Villazon, 10, left, and Zoe Saaf, 10, assist other patrons at the P.S. 150 sale.

P.S. 150 hawks for tsunami kids

By Ronda Kaysen

A cupcake goes a long way — all the way to South Asia — the students at P.S. 150 have learned. Distressed by images from halfway around the world of an earthquake and several ensuing tsunamis that wrecked havoc on 13 countries, Marina Templeton’s 5th grade class launched a bake sale, rummage sale and coin drive last Friday to raise money for the disaster’s 5 million victims.

“We have everything here and these poor people don’t have anything so we have to help,” said Andrea Villazon, a 5th grader, huddled with several classmates outside her 334 Greenwich St. school on a bleak January afternoon. “It’s awful because all these people have died. Kids have died.”

The vast number of children killed or orphaned in the tsunamis — as many as one third of the victims were children, according to some estimate — also troubled Villazon’s classmate, Jamie Sanders. “We’re kids too, so it’s closer to us,” he said, manning a table covered with cookies, cupcakes and Rice Krispie treats.

The baked goods, prepared by many of the students’ parents, were popular among passersby, with some patrons leaving hefty tips for 50 cent treats. “People were telling us to keep the change. It was just wasting money,” said 5th grader Aaron Lemson at a school assembly about the fundraiser later that afternoon. Lemson’s principal, Alyssa Polack, suggested at the assembly that perhaps the tipping-happy patrons had altruistic motives.

The clothes, books and CDs scattered on benches and tables along the sidewalk were not selling quite as well as the sweets, however. “It’s all in good condition,” shrugged 5th grader Elizabeth Scales, perplexed by the lack of interest in the used clothes. The prized rummage sale item, a used VCR, sat unclaimed on a folding table, along with piles of CDs. The CDs, said Sanders, were intended to lure teenagers to the sale.

A large blue bin with bold red lettering announcing, Change Drive to Benefit Tsunami Survivors, was more successful among pedestrians who tossed spare bills and coins in the bin’s slot. “It’s a very good cause,” said Scales.

The students concocted the idea for a three-pronged fundraiser the day they returned from their winter break on Jan. 3. Disturbed by the images on TV of a disaster half a world away, the students felt compelled to act. By Friday, they were hawking baked goods and used sweaters, still undecided about which humanitarian organization would be the recipient of their earnings. “We were so determined to make this [the fundraiser] into a reality,” said 5th grader Isabel Jenkins at the afternoon assembly. “That determination helped us.”

Templeton’s 5th grade class gathered shortly after 1 p.m. in the school’s music room with the 3rd and 4th grade classes to share their experiences and brainstorm about other creative ways to raise money for the victims. One 4th grader, Liam Glasser, suggested a lemonade sale; another suggested a talent show in the spring.

“We could extend this beyond this month and into the school year,” said Polack, the school’s principal, speaking to more than 70 children seated on the floor around her.

The children had questions, too: What if the money did not reach the survivors in time? They need food and water, wouldn’t it make sense to send staples instead of cash? The money from the drive is in American currency, how will dollars be useful in Asia?

“Maybe we can let those great organizations handle these things,” suggested Templeton.

Back in their classroom, Templeton confirmed that the fundraiser had been a success. “I haven’t counted the money, but there’s a lot of money to count.”

By Tuesday afternoon, the money had been counted. The children collected $1,149 and planned to donate it to UNICEF, the United Nation’s children’s emergency fund, Templeton said later. “It’s a children’s organization and these are children that are doing this,” she said. “Kids have been so affected by this. It’s been really devastating for children.”

Giddy with sugar, the 5th graders reflected upon their day last Friday afternoon. Jenkins, seated amongst her classmates, recalled an unexpected $50 donation from some of the staff at Gee Whiz, a nearby cafe. Bewildered by their generosity, she said, “Great donations come in strange packages.”


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