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PS 188 students collect coats for those in need

By Sophia Chang

Through colorful posters, song and dance presentations to fellow students and old-fashioned footwork, the 25 intrepid students had collected 470 coats by the end of the month-long drive. But since they were so close to the 500-coat mark, parent Nicki Schilling said, “some kids went out and made an extra effort, and we broke the barrier.”By the time the class organized a field trip to a warehouse run by New York Cares at Chelsea Market last week, they had collected 512 coats to help bundle up people going through winter without protection.”We're pretty lucky in this community,” Lowenthal said. “There was an idea that for the children to give back and help others in need is pretty important. We all came away with the appreciation for the lives we live.”During a recent visit with the class, the students held forth on their good deed, smiling while modestly trying to place their volunteer work in context.”What we did yesterday wasn't really for us to be in the newspaper, to have 15 minutes of fame,” said fifth-grader Kaitlin.”There are a lot of things we take for granted, if people don't have money,” classmate Laurie said. “I was inspired by what we did. It felt so good to give back.”To spread awareness of the collection for the 16th annual coat drive sponsored by New York Cares, a volunteer organization that provides social services to the city, students crafted signs, performed routines for their school and asked relatives to give up old coats.”We made posters and signs and put them around school to get people to think about someone else,” Ayana said.”My mom put up a sign at work, a lot of family gave coats,” said Casey. “We did a song in the gym when we were helping out.” She said she rewrote the lyrics to “Give my regards to Broadway,” and classmates Delson and Pablo also sang songs to inspire their schoolmates.”It felt good to make a difference,” she added.The students also helped sort coats at the warehouse, where they said the organization had collected huge stacks of donated apparel.”It was just fascinating to see all the coats,” Lizzy said.”I was very impressed because I never thought so many people cared,” said Tong. “We all participated, we worked hard in collecting them.””When we were there, just walking in, we saw these bags stacked to the ceiling,” Frankie said.The 25 students helped sort 1,335 coats in two hours, learning a lesson in sartorial distinction in the meanwhile.”Some of them were big and heavy, and sometimes it was hard to tell if they were men's or women's, but we learned how to look at buttons to see what kind they were,” Zachary said.”You had to get the coats out of the bag, sort them between men's and women's, children's and infants,” Delson said. “Then we put five in each bag.”When asked how many coats there were in the warehouse, the guesses ranged from 15,000 coats to a million. Schilling said she thought there were about 60,000.”When New York Cares saw 25 10-year-olds, they got a little nervous, but they said they did a great job,” Schilling said. “They were really impressed.””I was really overwhelmed by the number of coats, and I was very impressed with how the children tackled the work,” Lowenthal said. “They came away with a deeper appreciation for what they have.””A lot of people are thanking us for what we did. But it's like our gift is our reward,” said Justin.”The entire effort we went through, if we can help one person, it's worth it,” Max said.Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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