A FUND-RAISER at Jeffers Hill Elementary School perfectly illustrated the adage, "Every penny counts." During a two-week period that ended this month, schoolchildren emptied pockets and piggy banks and filled a container with more than $260 in change to donate to the American Red Cross disaster relief fund.
The change collection was in response to last month's terrorist attacks, which occurred on the day the school was to hold its back-to-school night. PTA member Joanne Andrews was one of several parents who approached PTA President Kelly Carney wanting to involve pupils in helping with the relief effort.
"We thought if we collected change, the kids could really be a part of it," Carney said. "They could donate something from themselves and not just from their parents."
So when back-to-school night was rescheduled the next week, the PTA kicked off the spare-change drive.
Principal Steve Zagami set out a container near his office by the entrance to the school each school morning for two weeks. He said he was touched to see children fishing in their pockets for pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters to contribute to the relief effort.
Sometimes they brought in change from their parents, but most often the pupils contributed their own money - wages from doing chores at home, allowances or snack money, which is normally used for buying ice cream and other treats in the school cafeteria.
"Giving that up is really sweet," Zagami said. "I think it shows the true spirit, the kindness and the generosity of our student population."
Each day, Andrews brought the change home for her son, third-grader James Spencer Lundh, to count. "He does like math and he likes money, so that helped," she said.
James Spencer says that even after two weeks, he never tired of counting the money. "In first and second grade, I learned a lot about money and counting it," he said. His only complaint was that the change was so heavy. "My mom had to carry it," he said, estimating that in the end, the change weighed about 20 pounds.
But when it comes to change, the heavier the better. Andrews and James Spencer delivered the cash to Allfirst Bank in Oakland Mills on Oct. 12 for a tally. From there, the money was to be sent to the Red Cross, Andrews said.
"Every penny," she added.
Many parents wish they could attend evening activities, but often the problem of what to do with the kids arises. Staff members at Oakland Mills Middle School have a solution. They are holding a parent workshop from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday in conjunction with a back-to-school dance.
While middle school pupils whoop it up on the dance floor, their parents will be gaining insight into what makes those youngsters tick. Topics to be covered include the characteristics of a middle-schooler, crisis intervention and the reading and writing handbook.
The dance and the workshop are free, but pupils may attend the dance only if a parent or guardian attends the workshop.
And what about little brothers or sisters? The PTA has that covered, providing free baby-sitting at the school for younger siblings.
Are you having trouble justifying a pricey Halloween costume, knowing that your child will wear it only a few hours? Take note, then, of this weekend's pre-Halloween events that will let your kids get maximum mileage out of those ghoulish get-ups.
Children are invited to trick-or-treat around Kings Contrivance Village Center from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday. Free doughnuts and cider will be provided, and all are invited to stop by one of Daisy the Clown's free performances, at 5 p.m., 5:45 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., in Amherst House.
Long Reach Village Center will have trick-or-treating for kids to age 10 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the village merchants. A magic show, pumpkin decorating, hot dogs and drinks - all free - are planned.
Children ages 3 to 5 are invited to wear their costumes to the east Columbia library Friday or Monday for Halloween crafts, stories, songs and a parade around the building. Choose from two 45-minute sessions each day, beginning at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Registration is required.
Irva Nachlas-Gabin, children's librarian at the east Columbia library, says that she loves the smells and colors of the autumn leaves. Her orange cat, Genghis Khan, shares her sentiments, a fact she discovered when the feline was 7 months old.
"I was raking leaves and he came running across the yard and jumped right in like a kid," said the 17-year resident of Long Reach. "He matches the leaves, so he's hard to see."
Her cat is nearly 8 years old now but still "helps" her rake leaves each fall. "It's annoying, but fun," Nachlas-Gabin said.