Clothing others wraps students in warmth For group at St. Paul's, serving needy is class act that needs no grade

November 25, 1997|By Ernest F. Imhoff | Ernest F. Imhoff,SUN STAFF

Robert M. Paymer last year mined St. Paul's School for 100 bags of clothes for the needy. This year's he's digging for twice that on and off campus.

"We're hoping people outside the school can also help," said Paymer, amid 30 trash bags filled with wool hats, gloves, mittens, coats, scarves, sweaters, shirts, pants, boots and belts.

"We need winter clothes. It's getting cold and people need to stay warm," said Paymer, a 17-year-old senior at the Brooklandville school.

"Last year we brought people the clothes, stayed and talked. They were thrilled by the help."

Paymer, who is the son of Michael and Susannah Paymer of Pikesville, is an example of how one person can make a difference in improving people's lives. Scores of homeless and working poor at five Baltimore shelters last year got clothing from Paymer's drive.

Twenty-five families received coats and other clothes at Centro de la Communidad Inc., a Latino community center at 2720 Pulaski Highway in East Baltimore.

"The winter clothes they gave us, especially the coats, were very helpful," said Ivette Miralda, the center's secretary. "The coats and jackets for kids and women were in excellent condition."

The agency and the four others will get clothes again this holiday season.

Paymer's clothing drive goes beyond the 40 hours of community service required of St. Paul's School students to graduate.

The drive was born last year when Paymer got itchy looking for more community service. He is in his fourth year of tutoring children at Coldstream Park Elementary School in East Baltimore.

"I like community service," he said. "It makes me feel good. I'm fortunate and want to help people who don't have anything."

Many students in his class, as in other private and public schools, also are service-oriented, he's quick to say:

St. Paul's seniors James Cornblatt and Matthew Tossman operate a shelter at Old St. Paul's Church, 200 N. Charles St., one night a week. Abhishek Srinivas heads the Coldstream tutoring program. Adam Kavalsky conducted a drive this year for UNICEF as head of the Model United Nations.

Paymer, a Jewish student who worships at Beth Tfiloh Congregation, is senior warden of the Episcopal school's Vestry. That is a student group whose members help conduct mandatory weekly chapel and are elected by their peers based on character and a sense of giving.

Vestry members lead other campaigns, he said: Dana Brewster and Tossman solicit canned food and Scott Marimow directs a blood drive.

With a clothing drive in mind, Paymer went to a friend and adviser, Kevin J. Cronin, a St. Paul's history teacher who once ran a soup kitchen on Manhattan's East Side.

"Service is not an obsession with Robbie, it's a natural gift," Cronin said. "Some people are called to help others. He's one. When God made Robbie, the world became a nicer place. There are a half-dozen Robbies here."

Paymer said he found Bea Gaddy's highly publicized shelter in East Baltimore had sufficient clothing so he scoured the phone book for lesser-endowed agencies.

He called shelters and sent them order forms with a letter that ended: "If you could return the second page of this letter, we will make sure you have some clothes this winter. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, Robbie Paymer."

He appealed to his school's students and faculty. Clothing trickled in. On D-Day, the Saturday set for deliveries, school people gave him and Cronin scores of bags. Eight other students helped arrange clothing suited to particular shelters.

Then the students drove them to the shelters. Cronin made sure that the students didn't just drop the clothes and run. "It's important they talk with people there."

Paymer said the entire process was "fun." The story is being replayed this year, "not a formal school project, but just a grass-roots effort by the two of us," as Cronin says. Paymer is seeing "a steady stream" and hopes to collect 200 filled bags.

Besides Centro, people at these missions will benefit this year: Joseph House, Maryland Homeless Veterans Inc. (Helping Up Mission), Brown's Memorial Community Outreach Shelter and South Baltimore Homeless Shelter.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 6, the students will accept the last donations, divide the clothes, distribute them and socialize.

Clean clothing may be dropped off in the lobby of the St. Paul's Upper School, off Falls Road in Brooklandville, Baltimore County, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and tomorrow and Dec. 2-6.

Pub Date: 11/25/97

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