$1M in donations continue to reach Long Beach's students
A fifth-grade class in Woodbine, Md., collected $2,300 for students at Long Beach's Lindell Elementary School when they heard the school might not be able to afford to print yearbooks because of superstorm Sandy.
Students in a Texas elementary school pooled lunch money and loose change and donated $7.75 to the Long Beach school district -- in quarters.
Ronald Badamo, a 1959 Long Beach grad who lives in Okinawa, Japan, sent $2,000.
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The Long Beach school district has received about $1 million in dozens of cash and gift donations since Sandy, which caused $54 million in damage and shuttered all of the district's schools.
The donations -- school and art supplies, equipment, Christmas stockings and gifts for students, and cash -- have come from Long Beach residents, alumni and other Long Island schools as well as school groups, companies and individuals around the world. Some have come from families struggling with their own Sandy repairs.
"It has been unbelievable," said Patty Van Loon, a librarian at Long Beach Middle School. "It's fantastic that there were people donating from in and outside of the community."
The donations have helped the district rebuild, Long Beach Superintendent David Weiss said, and have lifted the spirits of students and teachers whose own homes were thrashed by the storm.
Dorothy Byrne, whose 7-year-old daughter Jillian attended West Elementary School, cited a school in Rockville Centre that donated Christmas toys.
"When we heard about that on the announcement speakers, we were like, 'Oh my gosh, this is so cool,' " said Jillian, whose home is still being repaired.
The storm shut down the district for two weeks, destroying libraries, classrooms, musical instruments and thousands of books. West Elementary, the hardest-hit school, had 3 feet of flooding. Sand washed into Long Beach High School along with a foot of water.
West, one of four elementary schools in the 4,000-student district, remains closed, with students attending a crowded Lindell. The other schools have reopened, though some facilities remain off-limits, such as the high school's gym and a wing of the middle school.
Donations started coming in the day after the Oct. 29 storm, Weiss said.
"People couldn't help fast enough," said Heather Puckhaber, a first-grade teacher at Lindell. "We couldn't get ourselves organized to handle all the donations that were coming in."
And the gifts continue to arrive as the school year comes to a close, Weiss said.
"These were the kind of items that really allowed not just the school but families to function," Weiss said.
Longwood Middle School students collected 100 boxes of books and supplies. Carnegie Hall donated 400 recorders.
Tyler Fazzari, 9, from Port Washington, asked his friends to donate money to Long Beach schools rather than give him presents at his birthday party. He raised $1,500 for the schools, and Teq, a Huntington Station educational services firm, donated a Smart Board on his behalf.
Tyler's mother, Erica, said her son was moved by Sandy's damage to the schools and wanted to help. The donation drive took place while Tyler's grandparents were forced out of their Woodmere home by the storm, Erica Fazzari said.
"He got really excited to help the schools," she said. "There wasn't a moment where he was like, 'Oh bummer, I really wish I could receive gifts.' "
Elizabeth Altbacker, a band teacher at the middle school, said donations have been instrumental in restocking equipment ruined by salt water. Sandy destroyed more than 50 instruments, she said, but almost all have been replaced.
The new instruments are emblematic of how donations "made such a difference in the kids' daily routine," Altbacker said.
"It just made their year so much calmer," she said.
Long Beach's plight touched far-off students, too. Maddie Kutler, 14, from Ridgefield, Conn., stood outside a supermarket near her home collecting art supplies that she later donated in a minivan full of materials to West School, officials said.
Wendy Cruz, a Spanish teacher at Brandenburg Elementary School in Irving, Texas, whose sister Francis Ventura is a Spanish teacher at Long Beach High School, organized a drive and collected five boxes of supplies. Several dozen students who could not afford to buy supplies pooled their lunch money and loose change and donated $7.75, Cruz said.
"They have a wonderful heart and I know if they could do more they would," Cruz said. "To give those quarters away to someone that they know needs it more than they do means a lot."