It’s a mantra nearly everyone is familiar with: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Over the past few weeks, students at the Sag Harbor Elementary School have taken it to heart, in a very literal way.
As part of a service learning project, students from pre-k through fifth grade brought in loose change as part of an effort to put together and donate “summer fun and safety buckets” for children and families in need. The buckets, which will be donated to both the Sag Harbor Food Pantry and the Bridgehampton Child Care Center, will all include bottles of sunblock and tick spray, as well as a selection of summer fun toys and items, such as bubble wands, beach toys, wiffleball bats, flip-flops, and decks of playing cards. Other items like band-aids and aloe gel will be included in the buckets as well. The fundraising effort was conceived by school counselor Michelle Grant, who said the idea came to her after a presentation to students by the school nurses on the importance of using sunblock and tick spray over the summer.
“I started thinking about the price of those items and what a luxury it is to have that for some families,” she said, pointing out that while people in the community generally recognize the importance of donating food items to local pantries, other health and wellness necessities like sunblock and tick spray can often be overlooked.
The school partnered with Springs-based Three Moms Organic — which sells nature-based, DEET-free tick repellent made from essential oils — and Andrew White of White’s Pharmacy in Sag Harbor, which provided the sunblock. Both Three Moms Organic and White’s Pharmacy donated a good portion of the sunblock and tick spray, while offering the rest at cost.
The elementary school students were asked not only to find loose change at home — between couch cushions, in junk drawers, or anywhere else they could find it — but they were also challenged to try to earn some extra money by completing chores or doing other small jobs around their homes.
Ms. Grant said the response from the students and the way they embraced the challenge was impressive. She anticipated being able to put together 30 buckets, but in the end, they had enough to make 78 buckets.
Several of the students shared their thoughts about why they liked the project and why it was important.
“I like helping people,” first-grader Nina McLean said. “If we didn’t help out, then they wouldn’t have any fun in the summer.”
Fourth-grader Olivia Stiglitz Milazzo said: “I thought it was important because people don’t have the money to get supplies for the summer, and our job as a community is to help those people.”
Fifth-grader Rosy Hernadez made a particularly impressive commitment, donating a $50 check she had received for her birthday to the cause.
“I knew other people needed it more than me,” she said.
The project was beneficial for the recipients and the students. Ms. Grant said the elementary school teachers were able to incorporate elements of the project into their curriculum, whether it was sorting and counting lessons for younger students learning about the value amounts of coins as they separated and rolled the nickels, dimes and quarters, or the older children using Amazon gift cards from using the CoinStar machine at King Kullen to purchase items to fill the buckets, and sticking to a budget.
Ms. Grant said she hopes the project can become an annual tradition, and added she hopes it raises awareness that the needs in a community can be more varied than might originally meet the eye.
“I’m hoping it gave people an idea of things they can donate that might not just be about cans of soup,” she said.