Elementary School Students Help With Irma Recovery Efforts

Photos courtesy of Midstream Elementary

BRICK – Students at Midstreams Elementary School in Brick held a Coin Toss fundraiser to help recovery efforts for The Big Pine Academy Elementary School in Big Pine Key, Florida after the devastation of Hurricane Irma.

Several years ago, Brick Township author, Lisa Begin-Kruysman, met Keys realtor Sandy Tuttle while staying in Big Pine Key, Florida. Here, the two women learned that, in addition to a love of dogs, they shared a connection to Brick Township. While Begin-Kruysman now calls Brick home, she learned that Tuttle had once lived in Brick and even still maintains a strong family base there.

Tuttle’s family in Brick demonstrated its kind and benevolent nature when her mother, the late Barbara Tuttle, jumped head-first into helping local residents in their long-term recovery process after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in 2012. Her mother’s display of strength and compassion influenced Begin-Kruysman’s actions when, five years later, Florida faced some hard times as well.

“When Hurricane Irma hit the Keys in September, it brought back memories of our own community’s recovery and all those who helped in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy,” said Begin-Kruysman. “When I heard that the Big Pine Academy (Elementary School) had suffered severe damage, I contacted Sandy (Tuttle) to see how our own local students could help.”

Begin-Kruysman, who had previously worked as a substitute teacher in Brick Township, reached out to the Principal of Midstreams Elementary School, Dr. John Billen. She requested that his students hold a change collection to help the Big Pine Academy in its recovery process. Thanks to these efforts and the hard work of teacher Lauren Tallarida, the coordinator of the school’s Early Act program, a Coin Toss fundraiser was organized for the students. The hard-working Midstreams’ students ended up collecting a generous donation.

Photos courtesy of Midstream Elementary

“The purposed the Early Act Club is to help and serve the community. The students enjoyed tossing coins during their lunch hours knowing it was for such a good cause,” said Tallarida.

The students’ donation was also generously matched by Frank Scarpone of Ocean First Bank when he heard about the fundraiser. Ocean First Bank has been a long term contributor to the recovery efforts of Superstorm Sandy.

“When I came to school to pick up the collection, I was surprised that some of the Fifth graders had memories of their own post storm experiences,” said Begin-Kruysman.

The Big Pine Academy is a public charter school for three year olds and students pre-k through 5th grade. The school is located in a protected habitat for both the Key Deer and the Bald Eagle. According to Cathy Hoffman, Executive Director and Principal of Big Pine Academy, the recovery process has been slow but they are moving forward.

“We hope to be able to begin the rebuild of three of our downstairs classrooms when we return from Thanksgiving break. The staff, students and families have embraced the changes and destruction with both grace and dignity but we very anxious to begin to move back into once demolished classrooms. We have been humbled by so many people throughout the country who have come to our assistance,” said Hoffman.