Your Weeked Smile: Kids at PS 31 in Brooklyn Get Organized to Help Sandy Victims

The students of P.S. 31 Samuel F. Dupont School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn got the privilege of learning about community support this week as they and their PTA Board members presented a check for humanitarian aid to a representative from New York Cares. The check of over $800 was the product of a lot of hard work that went into a bake sale organized by the school’s community to raise money for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.

Some of the baked goods that young Greenpointers at PS 31 used to raise over $800 for humanitarian aid to Sandy-afflicted communities. (Photo: Ava M. Capote)

Some of the baked goods that young Greenpointers at PS 31 used to raise over $800 for humanitarian aid to Sandy-afflicted communities. (Photo: Ava M. Capote)

Hurricane Sandy closed schools for 5 days in NYC. Immediately after returning to school on November 5, 2012, students, parents, PTAs and educators across the city were eager to organize fundraisers to help the storm’s victims. The P.S. 31 family was no different. Parents and educators saw a perfect — albeit tragic — opportunity to help their children learn an essential lesson: we are all in this together.

Even for something simple, there’s a complicated set of rules that Parent Associations/Parent Teacher Associations must navigate before they can actually help their schools and communities. It was decided by P.S. 31’s PTA and administration that a bake sale using all donated goods would be the most accessible fundraiser. After sifting through the numerous Chancellors regulations regarding bake sales(pdf ) and scheduling and location of fundraisers(pdf), finding out that the regulations were temporarily partially lifted(googledoc) and being told to what charitable organizations proceeds were allowed to be donated, P.S. 31 held their bake sale on November 20th.

Students and their guardians had only a few days to prepare. At 8:15 am on the 20th, PTA members and parent volunteers arrived at the school’s library to begin setting up tables. By 8:30, 5 long tables were nearly overflowing with the enormous amount of baked goodies donated by the generous north Brooklyn community. By 9, they were overflowing. The conscientious contributors even donated enough allergen free food to cover an entire table, allowing all students to participate in the event. Class by class students were brought to the library by teachers and volunteers who supervised as the students shopped for tasty treats.

As the school day ended, parent volunteers took the bake sale outside to the general public. In an example of the kind of solidarity we often see from New Yorkers when other communities are suffering, parents of children who weren’t able to shop during school hours, other family members, teachers and random passersby eagerly bought up a large portion of whatever was left. Many refused change from their purchases, insisting that the difference also be donated.

Despite living in the Community District with the highest child poverty rate in NYC, in just 1 day the community of P.S. 31 raised $861.48 for victims of Super Storm Sandy. Rather than just writing a check to a charity and calling it a day, the PTA Executive Board wanted to be sure the students of P.S. 31 got as much of a learning experience as possible. They arranged for a representative from New York Cares, the largest volunteer organization in NYC, to accept the check and talk to the kids about the organization and the importance of community service at an assembly on Friday, February 22.

Lizzie Shipley, Development Coordinator at New York Cares and Greenpoint resident, explained the need for people to be active in their communities all year round. Responding to a question from a fifth grader, Ms. Shipley told the children that her organization runs 1,300 programs all year long, and that they’ve organized over 1,000 volunteer projects for Sandy relief alone.

Another excellent question from one of the students: “How much money are you going to raise?” Ms. Shipely said that while the immediate goal of New York Cares when it comes to Hurricane Sandy relief is to rebuild homes, there is never a stopping point when it comes to trying to help people in need. She also noted that every one dollar donated to New York Cares amounts to $6 in service to the community.

The students also asked the PTA board members why they joined the PTA. Marisol Rivera, Co-President, replied that it’s important for parents to be as involved as possible in their child’s school. They should do whatever they can to try to make their school a better place where learning is fun.

These young Brooklyn humanitarians set an inspiring example, and tell the kind of story duplicated throughout dozens of communities around New York that organized local resources to alleviate the suffering of Sandy-Afflicted communities in any way they could. Their quick and eager desire to help people they’ve never met, selfless joy in learning that they made a difference, and their excitement in learning that there’s more help they can offer to their fellow humans shows us that maybe, after all, there is indeed hope for the future of our species (and most certainly our city).

**UPDATE: The Brooklyn King’s Chess Clubs, PS 31’s chess team is trying to raise $9.500 so they can go to Nashville, TN to compete in the national competition. Kids from the school’s chess club get to school at 7:30 twice a week for practice, traveling to other boroughs on Saturdays to compete in tournaments. In order for the entire team to go to Nashville, TN to compete, they need to raise 9,500. Due to massive budget cuts, the PTA and school are struggling to find ways to raise the money. To donate and find out more, click here or visit:

PS 31 helps victims of sandy


–Ava M. Capote