Kerry Augustine knows about about the angst and horror caused by the Dec. 14 massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
The Hamilton Avenue School teacher in Greenwich—whose six-year-old nephew is a first-grade student at Sandy Hook— also knows of the angst involved when an entire school needs to be relocated. The Advanced Learning Program teacher lived through the two relocations of the Hamilton Avenue School a few years back when mold issues and reconstruction forced the school to move like nomads through the school district to temporary classroom space.
"Ham Ave knows very well what it's like to have to relocate and have nothing," Augustine said Tuesday afternoon. "I thought there's nothing better than to have a supply drive."
So when her nephew Joey Augustine and his classmates return to class after the holidays in their temporary quarters at Chalk Hill School in Monroe, their classes will be filled with some of the supplies she has collected. In the two days since she announced the drive on Dec. 17, she's collected and estimated three truckloads of bulletin boards, notebooks, paper, pencils, rulers and books. One Greenwich parent called her to say her husband's office supply company would donate 30 cases of glue, said Augustine, who's taught at Ham Ave for eight years.
"There can't be too many supplies. It'll get used, if not this year, then next." With all of the donations so far, Augustine said, We'll probably have to rent a U-Haul to bring it up there." But Ham Ave parents are coming through on that too. "I've had parents with trucks who volunteered—'tell me when you need us to pick it up, tell us where—we'll be there,' " Augustine said.
An aunt of hers is a school teacher in Florida and she's mustered support down there and is shipping supplies to Augustine, as are others from as far away as Washington state. "This is becoming a drop off point."
"I've had a lot of people saying 'Thank You' for giving them the opportunity to do something. They didn't know how to help," Augustine added.
All of this is comforting to her, knowing and seeing how giving the Hamilton Avenue community is.
She is thankful for the safety of her young nephew. "He thankfully didn't see anything but they all heard everything—the PA system was on." She said the youngster is gradually talking about his experience on that dreadful day.
Augustine said she learned of the Dec. 14 shootings when she received a news alert on her cell phone from NBC30. "I immediately called my brother (Joe Augustine). He received a call about a suspected shooting and tried calling the school but there was no answer. After about 10 minutes he and my father drove down to the school ... it was horrible."
Thankfully, young Joey was uninjured but he knows many of the victims, she said.
"It's horrifying as an adult trying to process it. Being a six-year-old having lived through it, I can't imagine," Augustine said.
And the school supply drive isn't the only effort of the caring Hamilton Avenue community. Students are conducting their Kid Cares toy drive, collecting toys for children who live on Staten Island where neighborhoods and schools were devastated by Hurricane Sandy. They have collection boxes in the lobby outside the school office.
For those wishing to make donations, email Augustine at email@example.com.