Raising over $1,000 in pennies, the students and Woodstown’s Early Childhood Learning Center and Mary S. Shoemaker Elementary School and drew not only the attention of NJEA’s vice president, but the district mascot as well. From left: WPREA President Jesse Stemberger, NJEA UniServ field rep Jane Travis-Address, NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan, WPREA member Jennifer Hildebrand, and the Woodstown Wolverine.
Pennies for Play—the fundraiser that allows children to contribute to the Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play playground project—found enthusiastic young donors in Woodstown. The students at Mary S. Shoemaker Elementary School and the district’s new Early Childhood Learning Center broke their piggy banks, scoured seat cushions, and saved spare change for the cause.
The Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional Education Association brought the Pennies for Play fundraiser to the schools.
"We heard about Pennies for Play at a county Rep Council meeting, and the WPREA membership felt it blended right in with the Shoemaker commitment to helping others,” said WPREA President Jesse Stemberger. “I'm extremely proud of our membership for their encouragement and the students for their participation."
Pennies for Play is a joint initiative of NJEA and the New Jersey Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association (NJFMBA). Money from Pennies for Play is combined with donations from other sources to fund the construction of 26 playgrounds built in a communities affected by Superstorm Sandy. So far 14 playgrounds have been completed: seven in New Jersey, six in Connecticut, and one in New York. Each playground is named for a victim of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
WPREA member Jennifer Hildebrand, a guidance counselor at Shoemaker, organized the project at the schools.
“We were blown away by the children’s response,” said Hildebrand. “In just one month, they raised $1,264.23.”
Assembly celebrates donation
To celebrate the accomplishment, both schools held assemblies and invited NJEA Vice President Marie Blistan to thank the children in person. Blistan told the students that one act of kindness always leads to another.
Blistan explained that in 2001, students in Bay St. Lewis, Miss. sent letters to FMBA President Bill Lavin thanking them for their work as first responders on 9/11. Lavin and his firefighters remembered those letters and after Hurricane Katrina checked in on the school that had written those letters.
Learning that that school had not fared well, Lavin and other firefighters headed south to help the school, ultimately building a playground there. That experience inspired the FMBA’s Sandy Ground project and led to students in Woodstown, N.J. giving their money to help children in three states.
“I know that I will be talking to another group of students in another school somewhere in this state, and I will be talking about Woodstown schoolchildren, teachers, and staff, and your act of kindness,” Blistan told the students. “The students you are helping will in some way, someday pay it forward.”
For more information on The Sandy Ground: Where Angels Play project, and to learn how your school can participate in Pennies for Play, visit njea.org/thesandyground.