By Steve Raymond
News Report Staff
A desire to help others is not limited by age.
It simply takes a big heart.
And an 11-year-old girl in Effingham has proven that.
After watching a news report about the devastation created when Hurricane Irma swept through Florida, Kristen Armstrong was left with a desire to somehow make a difference.
The following day, the fifth grade student at Central School in Effingham approached her teacher, Rebecca Peno, and asked for help.
“We had actually been talking about hurricanes in our reading class,” Peno explained. “We had talked about flooding and the effect a hurricane can have.
“Kristen came to me right after class,” Peno added. “She told she had watched the news and felt sad. She had heard about a school and how the kids had lost their books and things for their school. She wanted to do something to help. She said ‘What can I do?’”
The teacher and student then had a brainstorming session. Kristen really wanted to become a pen pal to students in Florida. She also suggested collecting a variety of items.
Mrs. Peno helped by contacting the Red Cross. She found out the organization would provide the name of a school and liked the idea of writing letters to the students.
“We sent 25 letters,” Peno noted. “And the Red Cross said they would make sure the kids at that school received them. Hopefully, those students will write us back, but that might take a little time.”
As for collecting items, the Red Cross said they already had an abundance of those things.
That’s when Kristen came up with a new idea – a Loose Change Drive.
Kristen, along with several other students, made posters to hang up around the school. She also got some buckets, made signs for each one and then placed one in each classroom. In addition, she collected the money after school and made morning announcements to keep the students updated on how the project was doing.
“When I was watching the news, I felt really bad for the people in Florida,” Kristen said. “There were all these homes destroyed. People had to go to different places, knowing they might not ever see their home again. And the kids couldn’t go to school and lost their books. I just wanted to do something to help.”
Kristen asked students, teachers and administrators to donate their pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. She hoped to raise $100 in two weeks, but said “I didn’t think we would go over that.”
She was wrong.
More than $100 was collected after just two days. Buckets were filled with loose change. There were even a couple $10 bills thrown in.
“Kristen gave most of her birthday money, too,” Peno noted. “I was very proud of her for that.”
At the end of the two weeks, $600.80 had been donated to the project.
“Everybody was shocked,” Peno admitted.
Kristen then presented a check to the Red Cross. The $600 will be used to help victims of Hurricane Irma is some manner.
“I was surprised we collected that much,” Kristen said. “So was the lady from the Red Cross. She came in expecting about $100.”
“There aren’t many young people her age that would so something like this,” Peno added. “Kristen has a really big heart. I was honored she came to me and asked me to help.”
Kristen, the daughter of Chad and Melissa Armstrong, is happy with the results.
“It was really nice of people to give their change to us,” Kristen said. “I’m just glad we could do something to help others.”