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DIS to "show some love" to NY school
By Elizabeth Bush
Feb 6, 2013 - 9:33:31 AM

It’s the “what if” scenario that often motivates us to reach out to those less fortunate. Last October, when Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New England coastline, crippling much of New Jersey and New York, many residents in the Daniel Island community were left with an uneasy thought. What if it had been us?
Daniel Island resident Kate Maas, who moved to the island from Manhattan in 2009, pondered the same question.
“I kept seeing my friend’s Facebook posts about the post-Sandy conditions at her Staten Island Public School – everything ruined, kids farmed out to other schools miles away, some kids missing, belongings of every kind and memories – just gone!” said Maas. “I felt I had to do something if I could as a New Yorker.  I couldn’t stand just sitting here in the warm sunny 70 degree pre-Halloween weather when so many people – kids especially – were really struggling.”
Maas quickly sent out an email to her Daniel Island friends asking if they’d like to join her in sending school supplies to facilities damaged by the storm. Once collected, the items were delivered by another island resident, Elke Pizzo, who was planning to be in the area over the Thanksgiving holiday on a family trip. The experience left Maas wanting to do even more. She reached out to her contacts and discovered a “Schools Adopting Schools” program had been established by a New York parent named Julie Bergin to allow facilities across the country to give back to students and teachers impacted by Sandy. Maas inquired at the Daniel Island School (DIS), where her daughter, Jenna, is in 7th grade, to see if the facility might be interested in participating in such an effort. After gaining an enthusiastic approval from both the DIS administration and the PTA, Maas put Bergin to work.  
“Julie found us an elementary/middle school that was in need of help in the Rockaway section of Queens, right on the ocean!” she said.
In celebration of the upcoming Valentine’s Day holiday, DIS is stepping up to “show some love” to their newly adopted Belle Harbor School, also known as PS/MS 114. The facility suffered extensive damage after Sandy, including the loss of all art supplies and materials. While other schools across the country are pitching in to help PS/MS 114 rebuild and replenish, DIS is taking on the school’s art needs.  
According to Rosanna Connors, a PS/MS 114 PTA Executive Board member, the school’s art teacher, Mrs. Gersh, not only lost all of the supplies and teaching materials in her art storage closet due to the rising waters and subsequent mold, but also those items she kept at her nearby home. In addition, her art room is not being used for instruction now because it had to be converted to a storage area for the school as a result of the storm.
“She lost all of her supplies,” said Connors. “Every single item was damaged completely… (our art teacher) is the hardest hit right now.”
Connors, who is helping to match the school’s needs with those who’d like to help, has compiled a wish list for DIS. Among the items needed are black mats for mounting artwork, paints and brushes, canvas boards, a paper cutter, watercolor paper, curriculum books and art concept books. The Daniel Island School will host a collection drive for the items the week of February 11 – 15. Students, parents and all other members of the community are invited to drop supplies off in the school lobby. Cash or check donations in any amount are encouraged (checks made payable to the Daniel Island School PTA) so that the school can purchase gift cards for the PS/MS 114 art program at selected online art supply stores. Members of the DIS Beta Club will be on hand during morning drop-off in the carpool line to collect donations.  In addition, art students in Ms. Maggie’s Moore’s 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade classes will be making special Valentine’s Day cards, for their counterparts at PS/MS 114, that will be incorporated into a giant poster to be signed by DIS students, teachers and parents.
For DIS art teacher Terry Lawson, supporting another facility’s art program is most certainly a worthy cause.
“Art materials are the life’s blood of a strong arts program,” he said. “Imagine attempting to learn to drive a car without a car. You may be able to understand the concepts of driving, yet that understanding would only be theoretical at best. Here at Daniel Island School we are so fortunate to have an abundance of materials…To suddenly lose everything, absolutely everything to a hurricane, in the blink of a moment, is simply to be forced to literally start building your art program all over again from the ground up.”
Lawson is proud that DIS can help play a special role in assisting PS/MS 114 in getting students and teachers the supplies they so desperately need.
“For a community like Daniel Island to come into this dismal equation with art materials means PS/MS 114 will now enjoy a very real jumpstart to this long and painful process of rebuilding they must face. Such a gesture, and gift, also allows for hope. And hope is everything…The Daniel Island School is not simply donating supplies, but nourishing spirit and soul.”
Daniel Island School PTA President Gisele Woodward shares Lawson’s enthusiasm for the project.
“It’s a great idea,” said Woodward. “This community is just such a giving community. It’s great to see kids helping kids.”
For Mrs. Gersh, who now travels from classroom to classroom to teach art in the limited areas that are open in PS/MS 114, things continue to be a bit challenging. But the promise of a stocked, art-themed care package from DIS is already having an impact, said Connors.  
“She has been working with very little. She’s above and beyond and touched. She can’t believe this is taking place! She’s just honored.”
For Daniel Island School students, and the community at large, there is clearly a valuable lesson to be learned from this experience. Perhaps they will find out that the better question to ponder is not “what if” this happened to us, but “what if” we did something to make a difference.
For more information on the upcoming art supply collection drive, please contact Kate Maas at

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