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Backpack Brigades to the Rescue in Long Beach

Storm-Ravaged Long Beach Schools Receive Thousands of Backpacks Full of Supplies

Spirits were lifted for Long Beach middle school and high school students as they received new backpacks full of school supplies from Savin Engineers.
Spirits were lifted for Long Beach middle school and high school students as they received new backpacks full of school supplies from Savin Engineers.
Story and Photo by Rosemary Leonetti.

After Hurricane Sandy swept through Long Beach, flooding most of the barrier island, many homes and schools in the district sustained considerable damage. Not only did many students find themselves temporarily displaced from their homes and home schools, but they also found that school supplies, notebooks and binders—in school lockers and at home—had been destroyed by the storm.

Hearing of their plight, organizations far and wide came to the rescue to donate thousands of backpacks full of supplies and hundreds of boxes of binders, paper, pencils, pens and other supplies. These essential classroom tools will be distributed to students in all schools throughout the district.

Robert Firneis of Savin Engineers worked to secure 1,300 supply-laden backpacks from fellow contractors, architects, engineers, consultants and friends to help outfit students in grades K-12. Savin is the construction management firm in charge of implementing capital improvement projects that are part of the district’s ongoing School Preservation Plan. Mr. Firneis, who is the project manager for the job, was so taken by the devastation in the community that he put out a call for help through the network of professionals who are working with Long Beach Public Schools to complete the School Preservation Plan.

In the wake of the storm, the Chatsworth Elementary School PTA in Larchmont, N.Y. also sprung into action, collecting a van full of book bags, school supplies, socks, hats and gloves, as well as $450 in Amex gift cards to be distributed to families hardest hit by the storm. Tucked inside each backpack, Long Beach students were happy to find personal notes from their Chatsworth counterparts wishing them a speedy recovery from the storm. The project was inspired by PTA member Katie Fitzgerald, who has fond memories of summers spent on the Long Beach shores. Ms. Fitzgerald has maintained close ties to her childhood vacation home through her sister Christine Farrell, who lives in Long Beach and also works for Long Beach Public Schools.

The Southgate Elementary School in the North Colonie Central School District in Loudonville, N.Y. sponsored a collection drive called “Kids Helping Kids.” They reached out to the Long Beach School District the day after the storm and started collecting according to Long Beach posts about the supplies that were needed by the community. The delivery, which included bottled water, school supplies, cleaning supplies, hats, gloves, books, toys and blankets, arrived to Lindell School on Tuesday, Nov. 20. Lindell students are now in the process of writing thank you notes to their new friends from Southgate.

Adam Croan, marketing director of School Bags for Kids, arranged for his organization to donate 104 backpacks full of supplies for children in the district. School Bags for Kids supplies backpacks full of supplies to children in need throughout the world. For every backpack purchased at schoolbagsforkids.com, a backpack full of supplies is donated to children in need.

Another 1,000 book bags outfitted with notebooks, markers, pens and pencils were donated to the district by the Brooke Jackman Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports literacy and self-esteem for underprivileged children. After Hurricane Sandy, the foundation began to send backpacks to Long Beach and some of the other hardest hit communities in the metropolitan area. Long Beach Regional Catholic School also received 1,000 backpacks from this organization.

In addition, the district gratefully accepted a donation spearheaded by Staples. The company procured approximately $10,000 worth of school supplies, including 2,500 Avery binders, 720 packages of Staples filler paper, 2,000 pencils, 3,000 pens, 3,000 highlighters, 3,000 lined Post-It pads, 10,000 label pads and 10,000 note tabs, all of which will be distributed to students in need. This donation was arranged through the resourcefulness of Long Beach Middle School teacher Melanie Scott and Rich Goudis of Herbalife, with the cooperation of Jana Frasier, regional sales director of Staples Advantage.

“So many of our students lost so much in the storm,” said District Director of Social Studies Sean Hurley, who has been organizing the distribution of the donated supplies. “Receiving these supplies brought smiles to the faces of so many students. It was gratifying for us as we reopened our schools to have so many organizations reach out to fill an urgent need and to let our students know that others cared.”

Although the need for school supplies is now filled, donations are still being accepted to help rebuild a classroom, sponsor an athletic team, contribute to a scholarship fund or donate gift cards. Anyone wishing to make a donation to help with the district's continued relief efforts may visit www.lbeach.org

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