Manatee teachers collect supplies for N.J. schools hit by Hurricane Sandy

kbergen@bradenton.comNovember 18, 2012 

MANATEE -- After Hurricane Katrina, a school district on the New Jersey coast held a drive to send backpacks to students displaced by the disaster. But never did Brick Township school officials imagine they'd someday share the need.

Donations have poured into Brick Township since

superstorm Sandy devastated the New Jersey and New York coast two weeks ago, said Brick Township Assistant Superintendent Walter Hrycenko. On Friday, a crew of Manatee County elementary school teachers sent 18 boxes of extra supplies to help the district.

A few days after the storm, the second-grade team at Samoset Elementary School started noticing extra school supplies they had that could help those hit by the storm. An extra binder here. Boxes of crayons not being used. Ziplock bags.

"We had so much extra supplies," said Jennifer Venditti, a second-grade teacher at Samoset Elementary who helped organize the Manatee County effort. "We decided to collect anything a student could use."

Venditti grew up in Wayne, N.J., and felt an extra sense of obligation to her former home. Her mother had lost her Point Pleasant home in the disaster. And every time Venditti signed onto Facebook, she learned of schools closing and districts in need of supplies.

The Samoset second-grade team decided to collect what they could and had their students make cards to send to displaced students in Brick Township. They also enlisted the help of other teachers and schools.

Some teachers from Orange Ridge Bullock Elementary School, Sugg Middle School and Abel Elementary joined the effort too, and had some students make cards as well. Rose Tobin and her kitchen staff at Samoset Elementary also helped the Samoset Elementary teachers collect supplies.

The Manatee Education Foundation agreed to pay for shipping costs for the 18 boxes of supplies that was sent to Brick Township, N.J. on Friday.

Brick Township Assistant Superintendent Hrycenko said that while schools remained primarily undamaged from the hurricane, many of his students and teachers were displaced.

Brick Township schools just started class again this past Monday, after having two weeks off because roads were blocked and unsafe to drive on.

Many students have lost everything, including necessary items for class, like notebooks and backpacks.

"When our superintendent talked to parents, what was lost was the kids' schools supplies," said Hrycenko, who is looking for ways to reorganize the budget to get extra supplies.

But the bright side of disaster is the community spirit, he said. The district has received donations from as far away as Michigan -- and Bradenton -- and is eager to rebuild.

"I just think the generosity of people from outside our area and the concern they have for our students is phenomenal," Hrycenko said. "It's heartwarming. It's what makes our country great."

Katy Bergen, Herald education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.

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