NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Columbus Elementary was a hive of activity on Saturday as students, parents, teachers and community members poured into the school carrying food and supplies for victims of a devastating earthquake in Mexico and storms in the Caribbean.
Principal Michael Galland said the school agreed to serve as a collection site for donations following a request from the Fundación Manos de Esperanza, a New Rochelle charity. When Galland informed the school community about the partnership with Fundación, families began bringing their own donations to help the relief effort.
The school remained open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, with five staff members and about 50 volunteers helping to stack boxes of canned goods, blankets, water bottles, underwear and supplies for babies and toddlers. The Fundación also collected nearly $4,000 from Columbus families and teachers.
"Beyond the good that will come from the donated items, it was very moving to be part of, and to witness, such an outpouring of support from the school community," said Galland. "The strong connection our school community and neighborhood have with Mexico was palpable. They really felt driven and obligated."
More than 325 people have been killed and dozens injured in a 7.1 magnitude earthquake the rocked Central Mexico last week. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced because their homes were damaged or destroyed. Hurricanes have also devastated islands in the Caribbean.
According to Galland, Columbus Elementary social worker Caryn DaLoia was instrumental in coordinating the effort, and two security officers, Maria Rizzo of Columbus and Joe Rondinelli of New Rochelle High School, worked all day carrying boxes and bags and greeting all those who came in with supplies. Head custodian George Mills and day custodian Lenny Sweeting worked all day to clean, cart supplies and assist volunteers.
Board of Education President Rachel Relkin was among New Rochelle residents who stopped at Columbus Elementary to drop off donations. "It was an unbelievable scene," she said. "I could not believe how much of an outpouring we saw from the community. I want to commend the organizers for that."
The Fundación has arranged for local residents to deliver supplies to Puebla and Morelos, two cities outside Mexico City that need help, and to Puerto Rico and the Island of Dominica.