By Vicky Chen

This fall, the start of the school year unfortunately coincided with the start of hurricane season. First came Hurricane Harvey, which destroyed over 100,000 homes in Texas and Louisiana. Then came Irma, which displaced thousands after hitting Florida and the Caribbean Islands.

As community servants, Pingry students were faced with the task of helping the victims who were struggling in the wake of these massive disasters. To begin the relief efforts, a school-wide Dress Down Day was planned for September 14. The cost to “dress down” was raised to two dollars (instead of the typical one-dollar fee), as this was a joint Dress Down Day that supported two separate causes: the victims of both Harvey and Irma. After hearing about the Dress Down Day, a student quickly approached Mrs. Shelley Hartz, the Director of Community Service, about organizing a bake sale on September 14 as well.

The fundraising efforts on September 14 were a great success. After an entire day of collecting donations, Mrs. Hartz said, “This was Pingry’s largest Dress Down Day monetarily. We collected over $4,000! The joint effort of both the Upper School and the Middle School made it an especially successful day.”

The money that was collected will go directly to two nonprofit organizations: The American Red Cross and the ASPCA. “The money that Pingry students donated will go a long way,” Mrs. Hartz said. “I also am hoping to take the check over to Walmart, where they will match it three to one. This means that whatever funds we raised will be multiplied by three.”

Ms. Barbara Chilmonik, Pingry’s Bookstore Manager, notified Mrs. Hartz that there were a number of organizations in New Jersey that were collecting physical donations and distributing them to hurricane victims. Immediately, a donation drive was also organized, and bins with lists of items that were much needed were posted around the school. As the week progressed, the bins around the school filled up with donations from students. They were later collected and distributed by Ms. Chilmonik to an organization in Holland Township, New Jersey.

Unfortunately, another natural disaster devastated a U.S. territory just weeks later–Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Again, students immediately rose to help the victims dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Many students and teachers approached Ms. Hartz to devise a plan to help tackle the destruction that took place, and a Dress Down Day and bake sale were quickly planned.

In these tough times following natural disasters, Pingry students have proved able to unite and respond in a powerful and positive way. Impressed by the enthusiastic efforts of the community, Mrs. Hartz said, “I think that when a natural disaster occurs, whether it be locally, nationally, or globally, we recognize that we have a responsibility to step up and help our neighbors, wherever we are.”