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South Hills

Thomas Jefferson HS club helps fund supplies for emergencies

| Thursday, May 11, 2017, 10:57 a.m.

When the Interact Club at Thomas Jefferson High School reorganized after taking a hiatus, several students attended the annual district conference and were inspired to do a global service project for ShelterBox.

The organization provides emergency shelter and other lifesaving supplies to help families following a natural disaster or humanitarian crisis.

Not only did Thomas Jefferson students reach their goal of raising $1,000 to support a ShelterBox kit, they got an up-close look at the contents inside the kit during a May 4 visit from Shelter Box ambassadors Tom and Marie Grant.

Kits usually contain a family tent, water filter, blankets, cooking and eating utensils, tools, children's activity pack and a mosquito net.

Thomas Jefferson English teacher Denise Breisinger traveled to the conference with students Alexandra Downer, Jessica Taylor and Audrey King. A ShelterBox kit was on display. Breisinger and English teacher Deneen Loughran are the club's sponsors.

“There were a variety of projects, but that one caught our eye,” Breisinger said.

TJ students held two fundraising events to support one ShelterBox. In November, the students received permission from the administration to hold faculty dress down days on Fridays. Each teacher donated $2 to participate.

The second event was the water bottle dime pledge, where members had to fill empty half-liter throwaway water bottles with dimes. A full bottle can contain $100 in dimes.

Breisinger got the fundraising idea from her son's football team at Waynesburg University. She said two Interact Club members could pledge together to fill one bottle.

The Pleasant Hills Rotary also contributed to the cause. Interact is Rotary International's service club for youth ages 12 to 18. Interact clubs organize at least two service projects a year, one locally and one globally.

The ShelterBox has a number that will allow Interact members to see where their box was delivered.

Thomas Jefferson members volunteer with Hundred Acres Manor, the high school fall play and Veterans Day ceremony, Pleasant Hills Library holiday activities and the school district's curriculum night/eighth-grade orientation.

In April, Interact members made paracord bracelets for Operation Gratitude, an organization that sends care packages to military and first responders as a way of showing appreciation for their service.

The Thomas Jefferson organization has about 50 members.

“Most are ninth- and 10th-graders, which is very encouraging,” Breisinger said. “They have been very involved, very enthusiastic.”

Breisinger said the club requires students to volunteer a minimum of 8 hours at sponsored events. She said more than a dozen students will be recognized for going “above and beyond” with 20-plus service hours.

Jim Spezialetti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5805 or jspezialetti@tribweb.com.

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