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    Schools join president’s quest for funds

    Some immediately start efforts to collect $1 per student to help children in Afghanistan survive the winter.

    By MELANIE AVE

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 13, 2001


    Children around the Tampa Bay area are responding to the president's call to help the children of Afghanistan.

    photo
    [Times photo: Toni L. Sandys]
    Malekai Cihaner, foreground, a Schwarzkopf Elementary student, is surrounded by her classmates in Betsey Sharp's kindergarten class as they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. before early dismissal on Friday.
    In Tampa, e-mail started pouring in to the Hillsborough County school headquarters from numerous schools asking if they could help their students raise the money.

    "Many kids made comments about wanting to help," said Elaine Diaz, principal of Alexander Elementary.

    The president on Thursday called on every child in the United States to send $1 to the White House.

    At First United Methodist preschool in St. Petersburg, teachers sent home a typed letter explaining the effort to parents and asking them to help their children with the $1 donation.

    "The younger students, 2 and 3 years old, don't really understand what is going on," said Dina Succow, who teaches 4-year-olds. "The 4- and 5-year-olds, they do know something happened, that the big buildings fell down. We ask them to pray and we ask them to help mom and dad around the house with chores" to earn donation money.

    The preschool had already raised $2,600 for the Red Cross. Immediately after the president's request, the school's director, Janet Shoaf, was typing up letters for the parents of First United Methodist's 134 children.

    Hillsborough school Superintendent Earl Lennard used the president's $1-per-child suggestion as a goal, hoping to raise $169,579 by Oct. 26. He is encouraging all Hillsborough schools to participate. The money will be sent to the White House as one check.

    It's a good humanitarian lesson for the children, Lennard said. "This gives the children an opportunity to feel a connection," he said.

    Some schools planned to begin collecting immediately. Sickles High was slated to start during Friday night's homecoming game.

    At Bryan Elementary in Plant City, letters will go out to parents on Monday letting them know of the fundraiser, said principal Beatrice Green.

    "We're encouraging parents to have their kids earn the dollars," she said. "Then it's truly coming from a child to a child."

    Bryan teachers planned to let needy children work for them if their parents were unable to come up with the extra money.

    "This helps kids understand that what's going on is an adult problem," Green said. "This allows kids to say we want to support other kids."

    The Pinellas County school system is not organizing a drive because a $100,000 fundraiser already is under way to benefit New York City firefighters and police officers. A spokesman encouraged students and their families to participate on their own.

    Pasco school officials didn't know of any schools that were taking up Bush's challenge. But nearly every school has a fundraising drive under way since the terrorist attacks.

    "Many of our schools are doing things left and right," said district spokeswoman Lori Yusko. "We've got a lot of projects going on that will total more than $1 per child."

    The Red Cross will coordinate the relief effort, which is aimed at helping Afghanistan's children through the harsh winter.

    -- Times staff writers Melia Bowie and Kent Fischer contributed to this report.

    How to help

    President Bush has urged children to earn $1 to send to the children of Afghanistan. The address is White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C. 20500. The Red Cross will coordinate the relief fund.

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