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Monday, April 11, 2011

Kids Help Kids with Gift Totes of Blankets, Stuffed Animals and Books

Kids Help Kids with Gift Totes of Blankets, Stuffed Animals 
and Books:
Tomlinson students support Center for Women and Families
(posted to 4/9)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – While they chattered and had fun putting together the tote bags, the students’ thoughts were on the children who would be receiving them and their unfortunate situations. Their hope was that the simple gesture would bring a little cheer during an otherwise upsetting period.

Taking a cue from Project Night Night, a non-profit that gives children in homeless shelters comfort and security, Tomlinson Touch, the community service committee at Tomlinson Middle School, held a working session Friday afternoon wherein some 30 students assembled tote bags for kids uprooted from their homes in domestic abuse situations. The tote bags were stuffed with a blanket, age-appropriate books and a new stuffed animal. Fifty bags in total were assembled for kids being sheltered by the Center for Women and Families in Bridgeport.

“We try to give students an opportunity a couple of times of year to do something for the community,” said Deb Owens, co-chair of Tomlinson Touch, an offshoot of the PTA. “We always have a fall event, which has been the Rake ‘n Bake, for senior citizens who need their leaves raked. And, all year long, Tomlinson students volunteer at the Pilot House, where children with special needs take classes. We never had a spring event and, after a little brainstorming and fellow committee member Debbie Reynold’s suggestion, we decided to join this existing Project Night Night cause. The tote bags seemed doable in a day and the kids could do most of the work. Mainly we wanted the kids to have a hands-on experience.”

Owens said preparations actually started back in March when kids were asked to bring to school gently used books and new stuffed animals. Fleece materials were also purchased from a local fabric store and the canvas totes obtained from Project Night Night. “Today is the culmination, wherein each student will do finishing work on the blankets and put the bags together,” said Owens. “The bags will to go to kids that are spending time in a temporary safe house. They are in that situation because their mothers have been victims of domestic abuse that was serious enough for them to suddenly leave their homes.”

With Twinkies, pretzels, raisins and water to fuel them, the student laborers sat around tables in a third floor classroom to band together pre-cut fleece to make two-ply blankets. Then they selected books and stuffed animals from adjacent tables and inserted them and the blankets in the canvas totes.

“This is a really good cause and I wanted to help kids,” said Maddy Foynn, 12, one of the participating students. “It’s really sad to think about these young kids out on the street without their things. I think they’ll appreciate this.”

Another student, Tallis Monteiro, 11, had similar sympathies. “I like helping people and am happy that they’ll get our gift bags, but it’s also sad to know about their situation. I hope these cheer them up.”

Sarah Lubarsky, Development Director at the Center for Women and Families, came to see the students’ efforts and share some more background about her organization. “We have a very special place called Cathy’s Place, where we can put people who have nowhere else to live,” she said. “We house about 100 to 150 people a year. They can stay there for up to 60 days, until they find another place to live.”

Addressing the students directly, Lubarsky said, “Can you imagine how difficult it is to be uprooted? Often, these kids have had to leave their homes with just the clothes on their backs. You’re being great heroes today.”

Kids Make Kites and Soar to New Heights at Earthplace

Kids Make Kites and Soar 
to New Heights at Earthplace
By Mike Lauterborn
(for Westport News)

Westport, CT – They ran in all directions, smiles on their faces and makeshift kites with long colorful ribbon tails fluttering behind them. It was a great day to be alive… and to be a kid at Earthplace Center.

Saturday afternoon April 9 marked Kite Making Day, a spring ritual that has been faithfully conducted for the past 10 years, at the Woodside Lane facility. Over a dozen families attended the event, the cost of which was included with regular admission. With an accompanying adult and in an EcoLab classroom, children constructed and decorated simple kites then brought them outside to an adjacent open field to let them fly.

The program’s coordinator, naturalist Margaret Ardwin, said of the event, “It’s a nice way of celebrating spring, getting the kids outside and introducing a little science. The kites are made of plastic trash bags, wooden dowels and kite string, with paper towel tubes to coil the string around. These are bag kites, so anyone can fly one. It doesn’t take a lot to get the kite airborne.”

Busily using colored markers to design the front face of her kite, Grace Katz, 7, of Westport, said, “It’s a great day, especially for flying kites. It’s fun to design them, then go fly them.”

Michelle Petrino of Fairfield agreed with the youngster’s weather assessment, which inspired her family’s trek to the Center. “It’s a beautiful day and this sounded like something fun to do,” she said, “and age appropriate for my son, who’s three.”

Out on the grounds, Steven Devino coached his sons Brian, 3, and Steven, 5, on effective flying techniques. He said he was a big fan of the facility. “Earthplace always puts together these great family events,” he said. “You always have something to do together that also has instructional value. And the kids are always exposed to nature and the outdoors as well.”

The Kite Making Day program is just one of the many fun, educational activities the 53-year-old Center offers. The facility also includes a 62-acre wildlife sanctuary with trails, an interactive natural history museum and live animals for public viewing.

For more information, visit or call 203-227-7253.