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Gateway community helps those affected by Superstorm Sandy

Among the local kids helping New Jersey kids with donations of school supplies were, in front from left, Ian Burkhardt Nagy, Anthony Payne, Aanish Cheekhala, Meghan Haggerty, Avery Ward, Bryona Jackson and Cassi Steplen. In back are Joumana Alshimari, John Laufer, Emma Denne, Jordan Jennings, Jason Chen, Cahlil Cuttler Glaze, Naomi Frazier, Jaydon Hunkele and Alex Meyers.

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By Matt Defusco
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 8:46 a.m.

Two retired teachers helped make a difference after they saw the damage that Superstorm Sandy inflicted on the East Coast.

Organized by Jean Connors and Karen Jedinak, the Kids Helping Kids project provided school supplies for children in storm-ravaged Hoboken, N.J. Book bags were filled with supplies that students and parents from Gateway School District had donated.

The Monroeville Rotary donated 50 book bags, and, all told, the project packed more than 400 backpacks with packets of paper, pens, markers, crayons, glue sticks, erasers, gloves and scarves, as well as a personal note from students that offered words of encouragement and caring, Connors said.

Money that was raised paid for gasoline and the rental of a van that Connors and Jedinak drove 350 miles to deliver the supplies.

Connors said they were warmly welcomed by the staff at Thomas G. Connors School, a primary school that suffered major damage from the late-October hurricane. The school still didn't have a usable cafeteria when Conners and Jedinak visited Nov. 28.

“They were so gracious,” she said.

The notes that Gateway students wrote were a big hit, and the students in Hoboken plan to write back, Connors said.

Stefanee Wolfsie, a social worker and counselor at Thomas Connors, said the students were grateful and excited about the visit.

“The kids all talked about how lucky they were that they received these items, and by the following day, we could see all of the students wearing their new gloves and scarves as well as their backpacks,” she said.

Connors used to teach fourth grade at Ramsey Elementary School in Monroeville. Jedinak taught fifth and sixth grades at St. Bartholomew School in Penn Hills.

“To me it was a great teaching moment. You could teach the children about science and why there are hurricanes,” but the most important thing she could teach, Connors said, is “the value of caring for others.”

Cara Zanella, Gateway spokeswoman, said the community was happy to be able to help out.

“The victims of Hurricane Sandy are still in need of supplies, and it was very gratifying to see all of the school supplies collected for the students who lost everything in the flooding,” Zanella said. “Our thoughts and well wishes continue to be with our neighbors in New York and New Jersey, and we hope the generosity of our parents, students and staff brings a smile to their faces.”

Matt DeFusco is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-849-1482 or

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