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School Supplies on Their Way South

September 29, 2005 By:
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Abrams sixth-grader Emmanuelle Glazier with donated backpacks
Before beginning seventh grade, 12-year-old Franckie Echeverria made the usual school-supply rounds with her parents, shopping for a new backpack, binder, pens, pencils and whatever else they thought might make her well-prepared for the first day of school.

Less than a month later, they went through the ritual again, only this time the back-to-school items weren't for Franckie, but for an unknown student whose own family was forced to flea New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"I was watching the news with my mom, and it feels great that there is a way we can help," said Echeverria, a student at Abrams Hebrew Academy in Yardley.

The other Abrams' students joined Echeverria; all told, children from the preschool on up to the eighth grade donated a total of 50 backpacks filled with school items.

Social-studies teacher Leslie Kornsgold had heard about the nationwide Project Yalkut (Hebrew for "backpack"), and decided it would be a perfect way for the students to help children their own age whose lives have been disrupted by the hurricane and the catastrophic flooding that occurred in its wake.

Instead of being sent to their original destination in Houston - which had been inundated with school goods from around the country, and which then had to be evacuated in advance of last week's Hurricane Rita - the backpacks from Abrams were sent to displaced students temporarily attending schools in San Antonio.

Along with Abrams, several other area day schools have contributed to the ongoing relief effort. Students at the four branches of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman Jewish Day School have raised funds for long-term disaster relief through bake sales, coin drives and walk-a-thons. Akiba Hebrew Academy's Chesed Club is participating in a Young Judea drive to send school supplies, children's clothes and canned goods to Mississippi.

At Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, students helped purchase plane tickets for an Israeli family displaced by Katrina to return to the Jewish state for the High Holidays.

And Rebecca Damsker, a social-studies teacher at the Stern Hebrew High School, said her pupils collected 20 boxes worth of clothes, games and other supplies, and brought them to evacuees in the Philadelphia area.

"These people have lost everything," she said. "Everybody has a little bit extra they can give."

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