Numbers for Katrina damage estimates have reached into the $100 billion dollar range. Communities across the U.S. have united to do their part in aiding in the relief efforts. Forest Park’s schools have been exemplary in this regard.

Betsy Ross’s penny drive raised $902.27. Their previous drives following September 11 and the South Asia tsunami were successful, but this current drive raised double the money of past efforts.

Comparing Katrina to the tsunami, Betsy Ross Principal Bill Milnamow said, “It hit closer to home to people.”

The success of the drive is especially evident when one considers that the Parent-Teacher Organization donated another $150, giving a grand total of $1052.27 from Betsy Ross.

Field Stevenson Elementary reactivated their Every Penny Counts campaign by placing empty Culligan bottles in the school’s lobby. Students filled them with their coins for the next five days, ending on September 12.

When they sent these bottles to the bank, the numbers totaled $903. Some giving parents then donated an extra $97 in order to make it an even $1000. Lowe’s Home Improvement then volunteered to double that number, so that Field Stevenson’s final donation was for $2000 to the American Red Cross.

Field Stevenson Principal Bob Giovannoni was surprised by the generosity of Lowe’s and asked them if they were sure they’d be able to double a $1000 donation.

“They said, ‘If it was a million, we’ll do it.'” Giovannoni said. “We just have to be very appreciative that there are corporations with big hearts willing to make a difference.”

Grant-White started their relief efforts immediately after Katrina struck, utilizing a similar penny drive for the American Red Cross by placing buckets in classrooms and in the main office for donations. Staff, parents, and students filled those plastic containers quickly. Their final donations numbers have not been totaled yet.

“We just did it all together as a school,” Grant-White Principal Wendy Trotter said, “It’s a very needy cause. It needs to be done.”

Forest Park Middle School came up with an innovative idea by having a staff versus student basketball game fundraiser. Students bought raffle tickets in order to participate in the game. The event was organized by The Builder’s Club and sixth grade science teacher Beth Stuchell.

The staff won the basketball game, but Principal Karen Bukowski teased, “Quite honestly we didn’t play fair. Which was our intent all along.”

The event raised more than $550.

The school will also be partnering with the American Red Cross to hold a blood drive on October 22 from 1 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Garfield was equally innovative. Rather than raise money, the school chose to “skip the middle man” as Garfield Principal Jamie Stauder put it, and collect items to be delivered directly to hurricane victims. The school collected rattles, toys, baby bottles, pacifiers, and other such materials in bulk. Some thirty packages of diapers from small to large were donated. The Character Counts Committee organized the event. Total numbers of collected items haven’t been tallied yet, but Stauder is sure the collection was successful.

“Forest Park is really a great community,” said Stauder, “They’re very giving.”

Overseen by their club sponsors, Proviso East’s fundraising was similarly broad ranging. Its National Honor Society student group is collecting donated items. Proviso’s Vision Group is collecting food items. A third Proviso group is collecting water, and the school’s speech team is also collecting donations.

The school’s teachers spearheaded a Wednesday lunch where people paid a $20 donation to attend. The goal, explained Proviso’s Principal Wilton Patch, is to raise $5000 in order to give $100 Old Navy and $100 Target gift certificates to incoming students displaced from Katrina.

Proviso has already had three students come directly from the devastated region with a possible fourth soon to follow. Sixty-five to seventy families have relocated from the region to the Maywood area and Proviso expects to receive further students from those families.

“I think it’s important for students to give back to those in need,” said Patch, “We hear all the negative about test scores. We never hear about the good things kids do.”

The brand new Proviso Math and Science Academy has joined in the efforts as well. According to Director of Teaching and Learning Richard Bryant, the school is collecting health kits containing various hygiene items and other necessities for hurricane survivors. The school is working with the United Methodist Committee on Relief, and Bryant said he’s been ensured that 100 percent of items donated will go directly to victims.

According to Bryant, the goal was to compile 300 kits, and the school is already approaching half of the goal. He said the school chose to assemble kits instead of collecting money because it gives students a more hands-on experience and because the Committee on Relief advised him that the kits were among the most needed items.

Still, Bryant said that relief efforts at PMSA are likely far from over. He said he had looked into working with the school’s sister institution in New Orleans, the New Orleans Center for Mathematics and Science, but that he had not been able to make contact with the school as of yet.

“We all know this recovery will be ongoing for months and years, and I hope this won’t be just a single response.”