ENGLEWOOD — When Englewood Elementary School students collected relief items for victims of Superstorm Sandy, TV host Katie Couric and a local church helped foot the shipping fees.
Students collected personal hygiene items, books and pens and made up packages to send to schools in Staten Island and the Rockaway Peninsula of Queens in New York following Sandy’s devastating blow.
Korey Provencher, a former Englewood Elementary student and longtime resident, now works as a producer for the Katie Couric Show in New York. When the show filmed a segment on the Rockaway Peninsula, Provencher said he felt he needed to reach out back home. He reached out to his mother, Jane Bengtson, who teaches at the local school.
“It stunned us the lack of response early on,” Provencher said. “I wanted to do more to help. I reached out to my mother and asked if she could get some of the schools in the area involved.”
Englewood Elementary principal Mark Grossenbacher recalled what he was told about it. “(Provencher) described the Rockaways as a lot like the community of Englewood,” Grossenbacher said. “It’s a community of teachers, firemen, policemen … just hard-working, good people. It reminded him a lot of home. He asked if we could put something together.”
The school started collecting the next day. During a staff meeting, fifth-grade teacher Elise Conway who was born and raised in Staten Island, said her brother, also a teacher, was affected by the storm.
“I was calling home to make sure all my friends and family were OK,” Conway said. “(My brother, Cliff Hagen) and I talked about some schools that had been damaged, some pretty severely.”
Hagen reported that children had been displaced into different schools and how difficult it was going to be for teachers going back. He agreed to be the middleman for Englewood’s relief efforts.
Students collected 10 boxes of school supplies in a week with the help of Couric, who paid postage on behalf of the Rockaway Peninsula schools, and Pastor Bob Sharp of New Hope Baptist Church in Englewood, who offered to pay shipping fees for the Staten Island schools.
Schools in both areas are expected to receive the shipments soon. All the items are brand-new, including 500 library books, hygiene products, pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, crayons and markers.
Provencher said victims still need toiletries, cleaning and house supplies, canned goods, blankets and socks. It’s a growing concern with the coming winter months and many homes still lacking sufficient heating, he said.
“The devastation here is still ongoing,” Provencher said. “We’re going to collect things as people move back into their homes and their needs change. Hopefully, we’ll be there to help.” To donate, call Englewood Elementary School at 941-474-3247.