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Dorseyville drive brings books to storm-damaged school

| Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013, 8:58 p.m.

One book at a time, Dorseyville Middle School students are helping write the story of how East coast communities were rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy swept through.

Since Dec. 12, students have collected more than 1,000 books to donate to Union Beach Memorial School in New Jersey, which sustained heavy damage during October's storm.

“My dream is to get 3,000,” said Ann Flaherty, director of the school's leadership in service learning programs, and co-sponsor of the fundraiser.

Dubbed “Rebuilding with Books,” the drive runs through Jan. 15.

Dorseyville Teacher Michael Quinn, a native of the Jersey Shore, spearheaded the collection after visiting family on the east coast last month.

Students at Union Beach Memorial School were displaced to nearby buildings while repairs are made to their school.

“While students and teachers have been provided with essentials, their library has been lost,” Quinn said.

He made a decision to try and refurbish the school library.

When he brought the idea back to Dorseyville, Quinn wanted to expand the idea beyond his eighth-grade team and make it a school-wide effort.

He helped created a video for the sixth-, seventh- and eighth- graders that showed the impact of the storm.

Flaherty said the school's counseling department prepared a lesson that addressed the importance of lending a hand and how joining together can make a difference for those in need.

“We put ads through the school with photos and there was the video that showed the damage along with Mr. Quinn explaining what he saw and how easy it is for us to help,” Flaherty said.

“So they saw, they heard and they received instruction on how they can help.”

Flaherty said the fundraiser caught on immediately.

The school's art department created a colorful papier mache book that is several feet tall to sit in the lobby as a collection point.

“The students are so interested in this,” she said. “We have the huge pile of books in the lobby and the students walk by everyday and have a visual reminder of how our help is growing.”

Student volunteers help separate the donations into age-specific groups and Flaherty said that work has inspired more donations.

“They go through the books and tell me, ‘I had this book. (They) are going to love this one,'” she said.

Members of the pubic can donate books as well. New or gently used books can be dropped off at the middle school, 3722 Saxonburg Blvd.

“From one middle school to another, we want them to know we are trying to help,” Flaherty said. “That is our goal, to put kids together with service projects to give back to the school and the community.”

As it turns out, the books will be shipped to New Jersey with the help of yet another group of students, those from Pittsburgh elementary schools who conducted their own fundraisers in November.

Flaherty said she contacted the relief group Brother's Brother for help with postage.

“They had money raised by students in Pittsburgh who donated it with the specific intention of helping with storm damage. It is a great connection.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. She can be reached at tpanizzi@tribweb.com.

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