April 2013
March 27, 2013

Disaster relief: When the call for help comes, you answer

Author: Kara Smith
Source: NYSUT United
Christine Sarni, left, Farmingdale Federation of Teachers, and Tomia Smith, Massapequa FT, donate to the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund.

Christine Sarni, left, Farmingdale Federation
of Teachers, and Tomia Smith, Massapequa
FT, donate to the NYSUT Disaster Relief
Fund. Photo by El-Wise Noisette.

NYSUT asked members to "Throw out the lifeline" for those still struggling to recover from Superstorm Sandy, and they answered.

Through raffles, payroll deductions and dress-down days, NYSUT members donated thousands of dollars during a special campaign to raise $250,000 in 25 days for the NYSUT Disaster Relief Fund, which aids victims of natural disasters.

Because the need is still so great, NYSUT is extending the initiative through the NYSUT Representative Assembly in April.

NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue and Secretary-Treasurer Lee Cutler, who both coordinate the initiative, thanked all those who supported, and continue to support, "Throw out the lifeline."

"The destruction caused by Superstorm Sandy called for extraordinary measures — and months later, members continue to need help to rebuild their lives," Donahue said. Applications for assistance come in daily, she said. The fund has provided grants to nearly 2,000 Sandy victims; almost 1,000 requests are pending.

NYSUT assumes 100 percent of administrative costs for the disaster relief fund, which relies entirely on donations, Cutler said. "We never know when disaster will strike, so it's essential we keep supporting the fund," he said.

No donation is too small. Locals are encouraged to hold simple events or take simple steps to raise funds.

The Harrison Association of Teachers put a spin on the traditional 50/50 raffle and raised $2,000. The local gave away a Visa gift card for every $1,000 raised for disaster relief. "Since the gift cards were delivered to the winners before the February break, we figured it would be a nice incentive to encourage donations," said local president Karen Magee.

The local hung "Throw out the lifeline" life preservers in the teacher's lounge as a way to say thanks.

The Corning Teachers Association, led by Richard Gallant, sold chances for four half-days of substitute teaching — courtesy of the district's superintendent, assistant superintendent, director of secondary education and director of elementary education. The initiative raised more than $450. "Most of the members said they would sit in the back of the class and pretend to 'evaluate' the subs, if they won, rather than take the half days," said Gallant with a laugh.

NYSUT retirees also gave generously. Nearly $2,000 was raised via bucket passes at the Feb. 25 Long Island Regional Retiree meeting in Uniondale; the March 5 E.D. 52 meeting in Albany, led by Joan Perrini; and the March 13 Retiree Council 12 meeting, led by Sandra Bliss.

Working with the district and central business offices, the Jordan-Elbridge TA conducted a payroll deduction fundraiser so members could easily make a donation.

"Our local has 128 members, and about half participated in disaster-relief payroll deductions," said Paul Farfaglia who, with Ben Alexander, co-leads the local.

"Members pledged whatever they could over five pay periods," said Farfaglia, who estimates the local raised more than $2,000.

The Starpoint TA hosted an olympics and raised more than $3,700. Faculty and staff competitors battled in 10 events including scooter racing, tug of war, three-point basketball shooting, jousting and donut tossing/eating. Close to 1,000 people attended the games. "It was great to see the entire school community enjoying an event for such a worthwhile cause," said local president Mike Huttner.

Other locals answering the call to "Throw out the lifeline" include the Bronxville TA, Westchester County, which held a member breakfast; the Rush-Henrietta Employees' Association, which held two dress- down days; the Long Island Local Alliance, which held a raffle and fundraising party; and the Sayville TA, which held life preserver sales. Combined, these events raised nearly $5,000.

NYSUT's statewide "Tell it like it is" Listening Tour (see story on page 12 for more) has netted nearly $2,500 so far from members who donated generously when the bucket was passed during the town hall meetings.