Students collect pennies for earthquake relief in Japan

By: Anne Papineau Journal staff writer
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When students in Julie Paul’s sixth-grade history class at Weimar Hills School learned of the disasters unspooling in Japan, they opened their hearts and wallets. A “penny drive” launched just Monday had, as of school’s end on Friday, gleaned $742.56. Children plan to collect donations at school through April 1. Their goal is to raise $1,000. “It’s our mission here at Weimar, we want to help mold contributing citizens in the global 21st century. We’re teaching the kids to look outside themselves, to not be center-focused,” Paul said. “And this is one way to help instill that in our students.” Although the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck Japan Friday, March 11, its impact remains deep. The Associated Press reported that as of March 25, hundreds of thousands of survivors remain camped out in schools and civic buildings. Some 660,000 households do not have water and more than 209,000 do not have electricity. The official death toll passed 10,000 people Friday. Another 17,400 people are missing, though those figures probably have some overlap. Auburn-area residents have not forgotten the stricken land. “We don’t have a monetary amount yet, but we’ve seen a handful of people come into the Auburn office every day, making personal donations,” said Trista Jensen, communications director of the American Red Cross, Capital Region Chapter. “Some people received Reid Cross assistance during the 49 Fire. They’re making donations as a return gesture.” At Weimar Hills School, an effort began as a classroom discussion then gained wings of its own. “The students seem to really care about what’s happening across the world,” Paul explained. “They’re empathetic. You can tell that when they’re donating, that’s the ultimate goal. And they care about other people.” Julie Paul is Associated Student Body co-adviser at the school with Marge Sigenfuse. Sigenfuse teaches eighth-grade history. Both presented “mini lessons” and then the ASB student government leaders use a daily flex period to collect funds for Japan. Weimar Hills science teacher Maureen Wilson organized a penny drive for survivors of the earthquake in Haiti, Paul said, so they used her expertise to oversee the American Red Cross Japan Relief Fund. Children are not collecting pennies alone. Some donors surpass the penny level and submit folding money. And Paul said students have paid a visit to Coinstar to tally their coin donations. From day one the Salvation Army has been sending people and resources to help Japan. On Monday, March 28, Maria’s Mexican Tacos on Bowman Road in Auburn will have a benefit for Japan earthquake victims. Proceeds raised from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. will be donated to the Salvation Army. Jensen said the American Red Cross office has not totaled donations from Auburn, but noted that schools, businesses and other entities often partner with the Red Cross to coordinate fundraisers. “People have been generous,” Jensen said. “Some people have ties to Japan, and the community involvement has been good.” -------------------- Maria’s Mexican Tacos fundraiser for Japan earthquake victims What: Tacos $2; burritos $5. All proceeds for the day will be sent to the Salvation Army to be donated to the earthquake victims’ fund Where: Maria’s Mexican Tacos, 13483 Bowman Road, Auburn When: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, March 28 Info: (530) 823-8540 or