WEBSTER — Jennifer Lentine, a sixth-grader at Holy Trinity School, doesn’t like tucking in her school uniform shirt.
In fact, she hates it so much she’s willing to pay a dollar to violate the school’s dress code and leave her uniform shirt home and wear one more to her liking.
She said she liked it even better that the dollar she paid for permission to dress down also helped victims of the Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunamis.
Jennifer was one of several students at her school who paid a dollar for every non-uniform item they wore during Thursdays in March. The money the students paid will be donated to the tsunami relief efforts of Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ overseas relief and development agency.
“I was happy because I knew we were helping people out,” Jennifer said of her school’s fundraising efforts.
The students have participated in several other fundraising activities for tsunami relief, and gave a check for $2,672.19 to Ruth Putnam, Works of Love coordinator for diocesan Catholic Charities. Putnam accepted the check on behalf of CRS during an April 13 assembly.
According to Mark Malahosky, a school parent, students participated in fundraisers such as filling an aquarium with coins from their own pockets and that of Holy Trinity parishioners; holding a garage sale that offered donated games and toys; and selling $300 worth of goods from India.
The Indian items were donated by the Tilaka family of Holy Trinity Parish, as well as their friends. Geneveieve Tilaka, mother of Tiffany, a Holy Trinity third-grader, is originally from India, as is her husband, David. She noted that her husband’s aunt, who lived in Sri Lanka, died of a heart attack the family believes was brought on by the stress of losing her home to the tsunami. Tilaka added that she and her husband also learned that “a lot of the places that are very dear to us are all gone,” including the church in which they were engaged. Despite her family’s losses, she noted she was comforted by the Holy Trinity students’ fundraising efforts.
“It’s just amazing what these kids have done,” she said, noting students like her daughter gave brand-new Christmas presents to the toy drive. “They were so ready to give.”
“While the students have had fun with all their charity work, they know that they were involved in a worthy cause,” Malahosky said, adding that CRS has estimated each dollar donated to relief efforts can feed a family of four for two days.
Putnam said she was deeply touched by the students’ generosity, likening their efforts to that of the Good Samaritan who helped someone he didn’t know. She added that, as a token of the agency’s gratitude, each student would receive a CRS bracelet inscribed with the words “One Human Family.”
The school’s principal, Christopher Meagher, praised the students during the assembly.
“You guys did a fantastic job!” he said.
Pippa Bianco, a Holy Trinity religious education teacher, helped coordinate the fundraising efforts with her fellow religious education teacher, Mary Haas. Bianco said the fundraising activities taught the students a valuable lesson — you don’t have to be wealthy to make a difference.
“Giving small amounts over a period of time really does help,” she said. “The small things that you do are the things that can really make a difference to people.”
Malahosky’s son, Nick, a sixth-grader, said he enjoyed selling the items from India.
“We got a bunch of time to sell really cool items to people and tell them about it, and we knew we were helping people hit by the tsunami,” he said.
Sixth-grader Joseph Bianco, Pippa’s son, also helped run the Indian items sale. He added that his parents gave him money for doing chores that he then gave to the tsunami fund — although he stressed he did not enjoy washing dishes.
“It takes a long time,” he said.
Gina Agostinelli, also in the sixth grade, said she worked on the garage sale, and liked selling the donated toys and games.
“It was really great to see we were helping people, and (buyers) got something, too,” she said.