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Kerr Elementary students show their giving side

Jan Pakler | for The Herald
Kerr student council members Dakota Carr and president Lucy Markovitz hang hundreds of paper feathers on turkeys representing donations made.

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Gifts being collected, too

Kerr students continued their goodwill this week by collecting toys to donate. The goal is 1,200 presents. Sharpsburg Family Worship Center serves as a second donation drop-off spot.

Students are encouraged to bring in new gifts that range in price from $5 to $15 for children of all ages. Gift cards and monetary donations are also being accepted. Stuffed animals and clothing will not be taken. Recommended gifts include: board games, dolls, blocks, brand name character items, fleece blankets, puzzles, trucks, electronic accessories and Pittsburgh sports gear. Donations will be tracked for each homeroom at Kerr and the winning one gets a turkey bowling party where students try knocking down pins with a frozen turkey.

Residents can donate unwrapped gifts as well. The worship center is at 200 Eighth Street in Sharpsburg. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays; 1 to 5 p.m. Wednesdays; noon to 3 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon Sundays.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Kerr Elementary students Lucy Markovitz and Dakota Carr were daunted by the task of trimming 1,000 turkey feathers from construction paper but they set about the task cheerfully.

When the number climbed to 3,000, the student council officers recruited help.

“We had so many people come to help,” said Lucy, 11. “Some were only supposed to work during one lunch period but they kept coming to help.”

And that was when the girls knew their project Give-A-Gift was a success.

The fundraiser, sponsored by the school's newly-revamped student council, was aimed at showing children how easily they could give to the needy.

“Our big thing is helping others,” said Kerr teacher and student council advisor Stan Strzempek.

“We want to make a difference in school and life.”

The project had a simple but fun premise. Six paper turkeys, representing the kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms, were hung on the bulletin board in the main hallway. Students could purchase paper feathers for 25 cents to decorate their grade's bird.

Proceeds went to North Hills-based Network of Hope, a group that helps local people with hunger, addiction and child care.

The group will use the money to provide holiday gifts for families in need.

“We like that some of the gifts will come back to this community,” Strzempek said.

In all, the school sold more than 4,000 feathers and raised $1,080.

“We definitely did not think we would raise this much,” said Dakota, 11.

“People have been bringing in bags of quarters.”

Each day before lunch, long lines formed in the hallway with students clamoring over which color of feather they would buy.

“It turned into quite a competition,” said Lucy, standing before a bulletin board brimming with homemade feathers.

“We never would have expected to sell them all. We figured maybe 1,000. But by Wednesday, we needed three times that many.

“It's all going to a good cause and makes people have happy holidays.”

Student council had been on hiatus at Kerr for about six years until Strzempek decided to reorganize.

“We want to do something to help in the community,” he said.

The grade level with the most feathers earned a movie party, he said, but “everyone is a winner for helping.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-782-2121, ext. 2 or

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