Fresh Meadows schools collect for tsunami relief

By Zach Patberg

St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows answered. From Jan. 10 to Jan. 14, students dropped their loose change, lunch money, crumpled bills and weekly allowance into collection plates during homeroom. Parents, faculty and staff sent money to the Campus Ministry. A check for some $23,000 should be presented Thursday to two Franciscan Brothers whose Brooklyn friary is of the same order as the orphanage in Kurukalmadam.”The outpouring of support speaks to our school's call to others,” said William Volgalson, head of Campus Ministry and coordinator of the drive. They're not the only ones. Schools all across the borough, including several from the Fresh Meadows area, are chipping in to aid those survivors halfway around the world. Public schools have united under the Tsunami Relief Fund flag, sending money from bake sales and coin drives to charities as part of a 12-week fund-raiser launched Jan. 7 by the mayor and the city's Department of Education. Francis Lewis High School teachers in Fresh Meadows passed envelopes around to their students as they took attendance during second and ninth period, collecting nearly $2,000. Senior Justina Chung hardly expected that much. After three days of hanging banners around school and sitting with students in the lunchroom explaining how far a few bucks could go, the student government member said most were not very receptive. “It was a rocky start,” Chung conceded on the phone Friday. “It is just so hard to get them motivated.” She became more optimistic when ringing a bell over a jar in the lobby brought in $500 one day. Within a couple weeks, more than $5,000 was raised, which averaged out to a little over a dollar per student. Girls at The Mary Louis Academy in Jamaica Estates canvassed the school with fliers and homeroom donation boxes, raising more than $6,000 for a Maine convent, which has Sisters caring for victims in southern Asia. One senior gave $150 that she earned babysitting. Briarwood's Archbishop Malloy High School raised $4,000 in two weeks. Michael Germano, director of Campus Ministry, said two more events were scheduled: a student-band rock concert on Feb. 11 that will donate 85 percent of the proceeds, followed by a materials collection to go to a Buddhist temple in Queens. St. John's University students are buying red wristbands that say “Save the World.” Hillcrest High School is selling bottles of soda and water. “Being so far away from the situation, we cannot fully grasp what has actually occurred there compared to those who have been drastically changed by it,” said senior Natasha Sharma, a member of the Indian Club at St. Francis Prep.The school is establishing an “Assisi Illam Orphanage Fund” for money still trickling in. “Our goal is to make sure that teachers, students, parents and (the) administration come together as a school community to figure out how they are going to raise funds,” said United Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten when the city's Tsunami Relief Fund was announced. Apparently, students don't need to be told.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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