The students presented local Red Cross volunteers the donation on Friday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It started as a simple homework assignment.
Debra Guachione's 7th-grade students at Reid were asked to write an essay answering the question, "If you could change places with anyone in the world who would it be and why?"
Ella Ives went home and thought about it. She watched the news coming in about devastating hurricanes in Texas, Florida, and the Virgin Islands and found her answer.
"I am worried about how badly the state of Texas has been hit by Hurricane Harvey. I wish I could trade places with the Red Cross volunteers who are there helping people rebuild their lives," Ives wrote.
"I want to be there to help give out food and supplies and let people know that we care."
Ives said her mother lived in the U.S. Virgin Islands after Hurricane Hugo and told her to join groups that help people in those situations.
"She told me about that amazing feeling that runs through your body when you help people in need and I would like to follow in her footsteps," Ives said. "I have always admired the way that people move quickly, especially in the face of tragedy, danger, and natural catastrophes, to help people. That is what I kept thinking we should do."
That essay set off conversation among her peers, wondering how they can help. Ives came up with the idea that if she can't physically be on the ground at those locations, then the class could raise money to support the victims from here.
The students "banded together" and launched a campaign to sell wristbands to raise money for the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund.
"Once students read Ella's, they got excited and thought 'yes, this is a great idea.' It came together under small groups of four and six and decided on a message, which was 'banding together.' They decided how they would go about their fundraising. And who would have thought at the end of the month, students would raise over $1,800 selling rubber bands," Guachione said.
"What motivated them was commitment and what made them so successful came from their heart."
On Friday, the students donated $1,500 to members of the Red Cross. The money was raised by the sale of wristbands and collecting donations at events like Third Thursday, involving some 25 members of the Student Council.
"For me personally, organizing this activity was fun and rewarding. I know that the money we raised will go a long way to helping people. That is an amazing feeling," Ives said.
Members of the local disaster team Paul Johansen, Joyce Ruitenberg, Martha Green, and John Green joined the students Friday morning for the donation. They showed the students videos and photos of their efforts both locally and globally.
"Sitting here and listening to the efforts you made and the reasons you made it is also inspiring to us. It is a mutual benefit," Johansen said.
Johansen said there are four local Red Cross volunteers currently deployed to help hurricane efforts. And locally there have been numerous fires in which the Red Cross stepped in to help provide, food, shelter, support, and other needs - that included a large effort during the White Terrace fire early this year that displaced more than two dozen residents.
Reid Principal Linda Whitacre praised the student's fundraising efforts and compared it to what the Red Cross does: organize, meet, plan, and take action.
She highlighted other efforts the students have been involved with including blanket drives, stuffed animal drives, and raising money to support cancer patients.
"You show the face of Reid, which is helping our community, helping our Reid community, helping our Pittsfield community, and globally helping out in the world. That is what we want at Reid Middle School," Whitacre told the students.
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