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Riverhead School District students donate to hurricane victims

People of all ages are coming to the aid of those affected by the recent hurricanes that devastated areas in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

In the Riverhead School District, student at Pulaski Street and Riley Avenue elementary schools are working on projects to assist victims of the natural disasters, especially in Texas and Florida, where hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit.

At Pulaski, fifth- and sixth-graders have been collecting needed items. So far, sixth-grade teacher Colleen Nizza has taken four full carloads of items to the Manorville Fire Department, where members are loading trucks and driving them to affected areas in Texas, she said.

Ms. Nizza said she was inspired to get Pulaski students and faculty involved after speaking to her husband, who works for the 106th Rescue Wing based in Westhampton. She said many of his co-workers have flown planes full of needed items to devastated areas.

Her original idea was to collect the items and drop them off at the airbase, but there wasn’t enough time to get them there before the aircraft departed. That’s when she reached out to a friend at Helping Makes U Happy, a not-for-profit based in Center Moriches, who suggested the Manorville Fire Department.

Students and faculty purchased necessities such as clothes, socks, diapers, dog food, cleaning supplies and more. Ms. Nizza’s sixth-graders also helped with sorting the items and loading them into her car.

“They constantly ask me, ‘Ms. Nizza, can we help you?’” she said. “I want to take them with me [to the fire department] so they can see what I do when I pull up with my stuff. We didn’t even scratch the surface and we’ve come a long way.”

Students in Beatriz Marcucci’s first-grade class are also working on a class book and donation collection for those affected by the hurricanes.

Ms. Marcucci said around the time Hurricane Irma hit, a student asked about the hurricane, saying they had family in Florida. This inquiry lead to a class discussion about the natural disaster, helping the students understand what they’d seen on TV.

“In my mind I was thinking ‘What can I do to help them process this in a positive way?’” Ms. Marcucci said. “When something big does happen it gives them a tool. It enables them and empowers them to cope with it and do something positive with it.”

The children are still working on the book. When it is complete, Ms. Marcucci will make copies to be sold within the school community and all the money will be donated to the Red Cross.

“It’s a sense of pride for them, too,” she said. “Look what we have done. We didn’t do it for us, we did it for somebody else with our own hands. That’s a wonderful thing.”

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Photo: Pulaski Street Elementary School students fill boxes with donated items for those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. (Credit: Nicole Smith)