Fifth-grader John Ouderkirk carried pillowcases filled with the favorite snacks of his classmates at Cottage Lane Elementary School into the Venture Center gym Sunday. Featuring cheerful rainbows and messages to "recover soon," the sacks he lugged were a testament to the outpouring of support from Rockland County residents for victims of Hurricane Sandy.
In less than a week, South Orangetown school employees and the Venture Center organized a Sunday fundraiser that collected mountains of clothes, piles of blankets and bags upon bags of groceries.
"It just took minutes for people to hop on board," said Debbie Archambault, a Camp Venture administrator.
The Cottage Lane students were supposed to use the pillowcases for a Halloween party, but that was canceled when Sandy knocked out power to the region. Instead, their teacher Phil Krump, suggested they create care packages for the hurricane benefit.
"I thought it was a really good idea," John said.
The fundraiser gathered tons of jackets, crackers and diapers to be delivered to New Yorkers from Piermont to Long Island. By 1 p.m., the gym was overflowing with goods that will help neighbors near and far.
"Piermont is devastated. There are people on River Road who can't live in their homes," said Laurie Wohl, of the Blauvelt Lions Club, which also contributed volunteers and donations to the drive.
South Orangetown Middle School Principal Karen Tesik, who helped organize the fundraiser, said she drew inspiration from the resilience of a young girl from Breezy Point in Queens, who walked into the Rockland County school last week to enroll. She was carrying her backpack, ready to start learning, Tesik said.
"The students gathered around her and gave her handshakes and hugs," Tesik said. "That's how you know reaching out to others makes a difference."