SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake Middle School launched a year-long fundraising campaign Friday to help a school on Long Island that was hit by Superstorm Sandy.
An assembly was held during the school's sixth period, when the teachers behind the effort, including Suzanne Nicholas and Karen Miemis, outlined plans to raise money and collect school supplies for Leo Giblyn Elementary School in Freeport, Long Island.
Nicholas, who has family in the Freeport area, and Miemis came up with the idea after they traveled to Long Island in early November to deliver a 15-passenger van full of donated clothing and supplies to people in need.
A banner hangs inside the Petrova School auditorium Friday describing the Saranac Lake Middle School’s year-long fundraising campaign for Giblyn Elementary School in Freeport, Long Island, which was badly damaged during Superstorm Sandy in late October.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"We stayed there for two nights, and we came home the next day and said, 'OK, where are we going to go from here?'" Nicholas told the Enterprise. "We can't just have a big surge of assistance and then, when that dissipates, they're still left with months and months of recovery but everyone has moved on to something else."
Nicholas said they decided to do what they could to help Giblyn Elementary, where her cousin's wife, Amanda Muldowney, is the building's principal.
When Sandy struck in late October, the school's first floor was flooded with waist-deep water, causing extensive damage to the building's library, gym and more than a dozen classrooms. Hundreds of books, materials and supplies were lost. The school's 550 students had to be moved to temporary classrooms in the gymnasiums and auditoriums of four other schools. They're finally moving back into the school today.
At one point during their visit to Freeport, Nicholas and Miemis said they were at Muldowney's home when there was a fire call at the school. The building had filled with smoke after a failed attempt to restart its boilers.
"When we were there, we witnessed the fire call that there was smoke in their building, and we were able to see the school and see some of the damage, so we were inspired to lend a hand," Miemis said.
"We decided we were going to adopt them," said Nicholas. "We wanted it to be eye-opening for our own students, not just raise money to help the other school, but to raise awareness in our own students that this is not the other side of the world. It could have been us. We want to take this opportunity of something terrible and make it something really positive for their students and our students."
During Friday's assembly at the middle school, Nicholas and Miemis delivered a PowerPoint presentation that included photos they took of the damage in the Freeport area, including debris and garbage piled high on the curbs in neighborhoods ravaged by the storm, and boats washed onto streets and sidewalks.
When the presentation came to an end, middle school teacher Don Carlisto asked the students if they were willing to help. They responded with loud cheers, shouts of 'Yes!" and a chorus of applause.
Some of the things the school will do include setting out collection jugs and holding raffles, dances and other events. Students were encouraged to submit their own ideas for fundraisers. In addition to donations of money, Nicholas said Giblyn Elementary needs a long list of school supplies like copy paper, pencils, notebooks and textbooks.
Adding a little humor to the assembly, the students were paid a visit by the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Bob Pettee of Pendragon Theatre. He was initially reluctant to help with the fundraising effort. After seeing the presentation, Scrooge had changed his mind. He gave Carlisto a penny, saying "It's all I have now, but I'll get you more tomorrow."
The middle school isn't alone; the fundraising campaign is a district-wide effort. Petrova Elementary School Principal Josh Dann said his staff and students will be holding a hat day, penny drive and a walkathon to raise funds for Giblyn Elementary.
Nicholas also said she hopes to get the community involved in the fundraising effort in the weeks ahead. People who want to make a donation were encouraged to contact Nicholas via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The organizers of the fundraising campaign haven't set a fixed dollar amount as a goal they're trying to reach or a deadline to raise money by.
"We're just going to start rolling and see how much we get," Miemis said.
"Our goal is to continue to help support them, because they're going to need it," Nicholas said.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.