Creating an opportunity to give back at Lawrence Middle School

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Winter won’t officially arrive until Dec. 21, however, the cold weather is already here, so with some help from the community, Danielle Aronovitz, a speech language pathologist for the Lawrence School District, collected more than 200 coats for children and families in need.

Aronovitz said that when she started at Lawrence four years ago she noticed that many of the students didn’t have winter coats, and that some students didn’t have any coats at all. Since then, she’s organized a coat drive, with help from the district, community and local businesses.

“Around the holidays, especially the cold ones, it’s important for communities to join together and give back to one another,” Aronovitz said. “It’s important, your neighbor may not have what you have.”

This year, Goldie Kuflik, a sixth-grader at the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach in Woodmere, helped to collect coats as part of her bat mitzvah project. She and her mother, Yaffa, posted flyers on the internet and sorted through new and lightly-used coats that people had dropped off at their home. “I think my daughter learned a very valuable lesson,” Yaffa said. “To this generation almost everything seems disposable. She realized that she may be lucky enough to have a rain coat, a light jacket and a winter coat, but not everyone does.”

Although the coat drive isn’t a sanctioned school district event, the middle school’s staff does help sort the coats and distribute them discreetly to families who are in need. Any leftover coats are donated to the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence.

Middle school Principal Willis Perry said that he’s thankful for the efforts that the community, Aronovitz and the rest of the staff gave to help the students. “The event shows a great effort from our staff in regards to the students,” he said. “It shows that they’re thinking about our students and the challenges they may face, especially during the colder months. It provides them with warmth and lets that know that our school and staff are there for them if they need it.”

Perry added that the coat drive is also a great opportunity for students to learn about the importance of giving. “We hope to help the young people understand there’s something greater than just themselves and hopefully that carries on later in life,” he said.

Lawrence Superintendent Ann Pedersen expressed a similar sentiment. “The coat drive is an outstanding example of the entire Lawrence community working together,” she said. “The opportunity for community service from public and nonpublic school students has helped the learners to develop a sense of empathy and grow their kindness.”

The drive ended on Nov. 28, but all involved expressed an eagerness to continue the program next year. Aronovitz said sees the event as an opportunity to bind the community together. “Everyone’s been so happy to help,” she said. “I’ve lived here my whole life, and you never know what your neighbors may need. It’s an opportunity to give back to the community anonymously, people don’t ask where [the coats] are going, they’re just happy that some kids and their families are happy.”