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North Bend Elementary gathers money for Katrina victims

NORTH BEND - Charity begins at home - or in the case of 518 North Bend Elementary School students, this time it began in the classroom.

North Bend Elementary School parent Carol Reitz wanted to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, and she thought it would be a compassionate lesson in philanthropy for the students to be involved, as well. "Hurricane Katrina is an opportunity to teach our children about generosity," said Reitz. "I wanted to contribute because I feel blessed to have my family safe, a roof over our heads and the food and water that we need."

Reitz decided that organizing a fund drive to collect money for the Red Cross was the best way to help the hurricane victims. "As I was watching the news coverage, I noticed that the Red Cross was there right away," said Reitz. "From the beginning they were giving aid, serving food and helping anyway they could." Reitz said she also liked the fact that 91 cents out of every dollar the Red Cross collects goes directly to relief efforts.

After receiving wholehearted support for her idea from North Bend Elementary Principal Jim Frazier, she set about putting her plan in action. Reitz crafted a letter that was sent home with students the first week of school. Students were encouraged to participate in the fund drive anyway they could, whether it was asking parents for pocket change, donating part of their allowance, selling lemonade or doing odd jobs for parents or neighbors.

Reitz and Frazier also enlisted the help of teachers, asking them to spend time in the classroom talking about ways to help victims of the tragedy, whose lives had been irreversibly changed. Posters were hung around the school, and Reitz placed individual containers in each classroom for contributions. An aquarium was chosen as the main receptacle for the incoming donations.

"I wanted something that would be very visual for the students, so we set up a 10-gallon aquarium in the front office to hold the donations," said Reitz. "I thought the aquarium/water theme kind of fit and I wanted the students to experience the excitement of watching the aquarium fill up." By the end of the drive, the aquarium was more than three quarters full.

North Bend Elementary School PTSA President Josephine McAlister was very impressed with Reitz' dedication to the project. "Carol was incredible. She came up with this idea on her own, implemented it and followed through with teachers and staff throughout the duration of the fund drive. She was awesome," said McAlister.

Students were very creative in finding ways to earn money to contribute to the fund. Some donated money earned from dog walking, mowing lawns or working as a mother's helper, while others donated birthday money or allowance savings. Some sold lemonade and cookies at a stand, and another sold homemade cards. One student even donated a portion of money that had been saved for a Disneyland trip. Everyone who donated felt proud to be doing something to help others.

On Sept. 30, Reitz and friend

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