Local students donate loose change to help Haiti



DACULA -- Dacula Elementary School teacher LaRon Perry wanted to do something to help the earthquake victims.

"I felt the need to do something because I couldn't go down and help," the fourth-grade teacher said.

Listening to 104.7-FM The Fish during her morning commute, Perry got the idea to raise money for Food for the Poor, a nonprofit ministry that serves impoverished people throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

With the support of principal Mary Lou Enright, Perry organized "Handful for Haiti," a fundraiser that encouraged students and staff members to donate their spare change.

Perry said she was "completely blown away" by the results. In four days, the school collected $3,500.

"So many people felt inclined to do something," she said, noting that several children brought in bags of coins, broke open their piggy banks or gave their ice cream money. "They felt secure donating through the school."

Hansje Laguerre, a fourth-grade teacher whose mother lives in Haiti, said she was "overwhelmed, seriously, by the graciousness" of the community.

"Especially in times of recession, you don't expect people to give and so wholeheartedly," she said.

After the 7.0-magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, Laguerre said she was unable to contact her mother for four "heart-wrenching" days.

Laguerre said she was on the phone with her mother less than 20 minutes before the earthquake. Her aunt, who was on the phone with her mother when the quake hit, called her to tell her the news.

"I was literally in shambles," she said. "I didn't know what to do."

A few days later, a cousin called to tell her that her mother was safe but her house was gone. But Laguerre said she didn't relax until she heard her mother's voice.

Three of her husband's family members, however, died in the earthquake, along with some close friends.

Laguerre said several students at the school are of Haitian descent. Many were born in the United States but still have relatives in Haiti.

Many other schools have held fundraisers to aid organizations assisting with disaster relief:

* Cedar Hill Elementary art teachers Joyce Dorian and Anna Murphy are leading the "Homes for Haiti" program. Art Club members are creating tiny houses and selling them to benefit Doctors Without Borders, an international medical humanitarian organization. More than $300 has been raised.

* Stripling Elementary teachers Merle Soodyall and Katharine Rodgers headed up the "Houses for Haiti" project at their school. Students and staff members have donated more than $967.

* Debbie Cornelison's fifth-grade class at Ivy Creek Elementary made a commercial for the school's morning announcements to inform students how to help earthquake survivors in Haiti by donating money.

* Pinckneyville Middle sponsored "Healing Hearts for Haiti," in which students and staff collected donations to benefit the American Red Cross. Each donation entitled participants to have their name printed on a paper heart, and the hearts were posted throughout the school.

* Hull Middle students are participating in a "Hull Hat for Haiti Day." Participants are allowed to wear a hat to school for a $1 donation. All proceeds will be donated to a fund for Haiti.

* Duncan Creek Elementary also participated in a "Hats for Haiti" Day.