2017-09-28 / Front Page

SMALL HANDS, BIG HELP

Lawn sixth-graders inspired to aid Irma victims
BY RYAN GIBBS


PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Sixth-graders pack supplies into cardboard boxes Friday to benefit displaced families in southwestern Florida. Hurricane Irma tore through the Immokalee region earlier this month, uprooting trees and demolishing mobile homes.

When Florida students in the Immokalee district arrived to class this week, mysterious boxes were awaiting them.

Inside these packages were pencils, books, toys, board games, clothes, diapers and gift cards. They were postmarked from a school 1,300 miles away in Jamestown they never knew existed.

In the wake of Hurricane Irma, which ravaged the Gulf Coast of Florida three weeks ago, Lawn School sixth-graders, who were engrossed in a unit about weather, were inspired to respond. Led by science teacher Charlene Tuttle, the students began collecting supplies for the Immokalee population that has been left homeless by the hurricane, which tore through Florida as a Category 5 storm.


Parent volunteer Lisa Tuttle, from left, Michaela Castner, teacher Charlene Tuttle, Bo Daniels, Alexandra Moretti, Zachary Hageman, Aiden Hageman, Ceriana Carnevale, teacher Brittany Richer, Rylee Daniels, Sophia Tikoian, teacher Ellen Bednarczyk and Molly Brine after packing a dozen boxes of supplies Friday for families that were displaced by Hurricane Irma in Immokalee, Fla., about 35 miles southeast of Fort Myers. Students turned a school lesson on weather into a humanitarian one after seeing images of the storm-battered area on television. “It was a real outpouring of support,” said Charlene Tuttle. “It’s a testimony to the amazingness of Jamestown.” 
PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN Parent volunteer Lisa Tuttle, from left, Michaela Castner, teacher Charlene Tuttle, Bo Daniels, Alexandra Moretti, Zachary Hageman, Aiden Hageman, Ceriana Carnevale, teacher Brittany Richer, Rylee Daniels, Sophia Tikoian, teacher Ellen Bednarczyk and Molly Brine after packing a dozen boxes of supplies Friday for families that were displaced by Hurricane Irma in Immokalee, Fla., about 35 miles southeast of Fort Myers. Students turned a school lesson on weather into a humanitarian one after seeing images of the storm-battered area on television. “It was a real outpouring of support,” said Charlene Tuttle. “It’s a testimony to the amazingness of Jamestown.” PHOTO BY ANDREA VON HOHENLEITEN “It’s for kids who have lost everything and need basically everything,” said Bo Daniels, 11. “I think they’re going to be happy and glad that they have stuff from us.”

During the course of a school week, the class collected enough donations to fill a dozen cardboard boxes. Molly Brine, who was busy packing supplies Friday afternoon, donated dolls.

“The toys might help them feel better,” she said, “and know people are looking out for them.”

Stormy summer

Tuttle had been considering a relief fund since Hurricane Harvey, although it was her class that spearheaded the Immokalee project. While Tuttle was teaching about the science of hurricanes in the classroom, the students were seeing the devastating news reports in their living rooms. The conversation quickly transformed from meteorology to humanitarianism. The children began asking questions: What can we do? How can we help them?

“They often lead the way,” Tuttle said.

Following their summer break, curious students wondered about the unusually active hurricane season that produced three Category 4 or 5 storms. To pique their interest, Tuttle expanded her curriculum on cyclones, from their ocean-based energy to the Saffir-Simpson scale.

“Most of them knew the hurricanes were happening, but they didn’t really have a clear idea on formation,” she said. “That led us to dig a little deeper and figure out how these things occur in the world.”

After the class expressed its interest in outreach, Tuttle rallied other teachers to contact their family and friends in Florida. She wanted to determine which school system could benefit the most from the donations. Jamie Ordway, a former Melrose School second-grade teacher, responded from her classroom in Cape Corral. Although that city was relatively spared by the brunt of Irma, Ordway told Tuttle that Immokalee, about 45 miles to her east, had suffered severe damage. The transplanted Floridian gave a list of supplies and agreed to be the liaison.

“She was really aware of the need there,” Tuttle said.

Supplies and demand

The drive began Sept. 18. Two days later, Tuttle messaged the entire faculty, from both schools, about the drive. The e-mail blast expanded the outreach beyond the sixth-grade wing, and by Friday morning, the box outside her classroom was overflowing with items.

“It was a real outpouring of support,” Tuttle said. “It’s a testimony to the amazingness of Jamestown.”

The sixth-graders began packing supplies into cardboard boxes Friday afternoon. As the class was in the midst of the work, however, the dismissal bell rang, which is usually a sound of relief for sixth-graders. The bell fell on deaf ears, and the class stayed after school to finish the job.

Rylee Daniels, Bo’s twin sister, moved with her family to town this summer. She said they donated money for the shipping costs. Classmate River Andersen, who packed boxes alongside the twins, said the clothes they packed were brand-new, not second-hand.

“It’s going to help them in some way that makes it a little easier to recover from the hurricane,” she said.

Joseph Froberg, whose family bought a CVS gift card to ship south, praised the work of his classmates. “I think we’re doing a very, very good job,” he said. “This is going to have a big impact.”

After the students finished packing the donated supplies, Tuttle brought the boxes to the post office on Narragansett Avenue. Ordway, who was scheduled to receive the packages earlier this week, will distribute the supplies to families that have been uprooted by the storm.

Lawn School Principal Nate Edmunds said he was proud of his philanthropic team that accomplished so much in five days.

“We’ve got a terrific, sympathetic group of kids,” he said. “When kids want to help, I want to promote that and give them the opportunity.”

Although the boxes have been shipped, the class said that it is still accepting gift cards to CVS, Walgreens and Walmart, three stores that are in and around Immokalee. They can be dropped off at the front desk at Lawn School.

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