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Washington Elementary students are giving their pennies, while a local pastor uses his musical talent to help raise money for Superstorm Sandy victims. Meanwhile, Monticello resident Robin Whitted spent 14 days in New York servicing portable tents that housed some 700 emergency personnel who had responded in the aftermath of the storm.
It all adds up to Piatt County doing its part to help those who are still suffering from the Oct. 29 storm that hit the east coast.
It was Whitted’s first volunteer work with Chasing4Life, an agency that exists to help in such disasters. She said the trip gave her a newfound faith in mankind.
“We ran into a couple who had lost their house, and were living on a boat. But they were more concerned with his father who was in Fair Rockaway (New Jersey), which was hit even worse,” said Whitted.
“It was very nice to hear and see that. It was nice to know there were people who had lost nearly everything but were still more concerned about areas where people had lost more,” she added.
It was the story of a leveled school in Monmouth Beach, N.J. that prompted some Washington Elementary School students to spring into action.
Fifth graders Cassidy Marcum and Skyler Frye had been wanting to donate money made from the sale of homemade bookmarks and a summer lemonade stand to a good cause. When they found that teacher Katherine Sokolowski knew someone at the devastated New Jersey school, they worked with Washington Principal Nancy Rosenbery and classmates Kalyn Prather and Jayna Burger to organize a penny drive through Dec. 5 at the school.
“It was a pretty sizable school, and now it’s just gone,” said Marcum of the school in New Jersey.
“We just wanted to help out, and we already had a ton of bookmarks made, and just wanted to donate it for a good cause,” added Frye.
The students even have a company name: J.A.C.K.’s, made up of the first letters of their names.
“I’m very proud of them, coming up with this idea and wanting to give back,” said Rosenbery. “I think that it’s very important to not think about what they want, but to think about others and how to make them happier.”
Rosenbery said penny campaigns have been known to raise $200 at school, but Marcum has her sights set higher.
“I want to raise $1,000, but $500 seems more possible,” she said.
Faith Lutheran Church in Monticello has also taken on Sandy relief as a missions project, raising $4,354 thus far for the cause. That included a fund-raiser concert on Nov. 16 that featured Sibling Harmony, made up of Faith pastor Kurtis Bueltmann and his brothers and sister.
“The concert went great! We had around 100 people or so attend,” said Bueltmann. Another church member, Lee Schofield and his family were also able to take items donated directly out to the east coast.
Superstorm Sandy made landfall in New Jersey on Oct. 29. Before it left the next day it left 125 dead and caused an estimated $62 billion in damage.
But amid the storm, the mayhem and additional weather patterns that required Witted to shovel 6 to 8 inches of snow off the roofs of the inflatable tents, she said the experience was “overwhelming, but extremely rewarding.”
Emergency crews were also happy to see the tents, since some had been sleeping in ambulances for up to a week.
Whitted became hooked on the Chasing4Life cause when director Eddy Weiss gave a presentation at her church – Christ Lutheran – earlier this year. This was her first experience in disaster relief, but she already seems hooked.
"I'd leave again right now if they needed me to,” added Whitted.