A hurricane relief drive at a neighborhood school turned into a lesson about teamwork and volunteerism for its students last Friday.
Moved by the suffering of their fellow Brooklynites, the members of the IS 71 Community Service Club launched a food and clothing drive to benefit the victims of Sandy. Operating under club advisor and eighth grade math teacher Joshua Good, the club expanded its campaign to the entire school, with students, teachers and administrators accumulating more than 800 food items, 1,200 clothing items and 200 pet items in just two weeks.
“We’ve done food and clothing drives before, but never to this magnitude, said the appropriately monikered Good. “It was truly a schoolwide effort.”
To increase his already generous students’ motivation to give, Good thought it was important to bring the kids to the affected areas and experience the devastation firsthand, expecting it to give them a little more motivation to help. On Friday, November 16th, Good accompanied 30 students to Coney Island to help distribute the goods. “Having the kids there was very special,” he said. “I know it’s already become a major moment in their lives – being able to go down there and help people in such a big way.”
Good and the Community Service Club researched potential recipients of the IS 71 aid before settling on the Coney Island shelter they visited Friday. Following an emotional trip to that center, they visited the home of a survivor who described to the students how she survived with her family and even helped rescue her next door neighbor, who was swept from her home by the rising flood-waters. Seeing the woman floating away, she quickly grabbed a ladder, and with the help of her husband, guided her back to safety.
Coming from the relatively spared North Brooklyn, student Jocelyn Ramos was stunned by what she saw. “It was terrible,” she said. “There was sand from the beach all over, signs were knocked down and houses were filled with water.”
As shocking as the condition of the neighborhood, the number of people in need made an even greater impact on the students. Mary Cava, another student who made the trip, said most of the hurricane victims were glad to see the volunteers, but some “were very impatient, probably because they had been through a lot and it was taking a long time to get what they needed.” Gaining that perspective was one of the main goals of the trip, Good said. “When the kids saw the sheer number of people waiting in line for food and water, they started to understand the impact and how big the need was.”
According to Good, Principal Eric Fraser thought it was essential for the students to see the people they were helping. Student Bryan Rodriguez bears that out. “It changed the way I look at things,” he said. “I saw all those people with needs and I felt good that I went down there and helped them.” While in Staten Island, Rodriguez met with members of Americorps and hopes to work with the national service organization after graduation.
The relief effort isn’t over at IS 71, said Good. “We’re going to collect as much as we can,” he said. “The need is going to be there for a long time.”