North Beach students fill traffic cones to feed. From left to right: Charlotte Bishop, Samantha White, Mrs. Niemeyer, Ruby Hayes, Andrew Dornbach.
At Large in Ballard: Filling a need
The week before Seattle Schools’ winter break was a heartbreaking time all over the country and very difficult for every grade school teacher who could imagine those classrooms so clearly. It was also the week Mrs. Niemeyer, 2nd Grade teacher at North Beach Elementary School, had been coordinating since late October: the second annual Fill to Feed during morning school patrol.
She had sent out “masses of invitation emails” and had confirmations from Evening Magazine, Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Superintendent José Banda and Fire Station #35. Unfortunately the Mayor and someone from the Seahawks weren’t able to make an appearance during the students’ attempt to meet or beat the 2011 fundraising total of $1,200.
It was Meeghan Black from Evening Magazine, scheduled to film their show from North Beach on Monday, Dec. 17 who asked, “Will you still do it?”
Perhaps because she’s a parent to two daughters as well as an elementary school teacher Filina Niemeyer knew there was even more incentive to go forward with Fill to Feed; there needed to be positive action, there needed to be good in the midst of a tragedy that couldn’t have seemed more personal.
During the 2011 school year students learned that through Northwest Harvest they could provide a meal to a family of three for $.67 per family. Niemeyer put together a one-week fundraising drive in which students and families were encouraged to donate change during the time when students arrive at school by bus, car and on foot. The 4th and 5th grade school patrol students collected coins into orange traffic safety cones. Their goal was $.67 per each North Beach student; they met their goal in the first day.
In hopes that the Fill to Feed program could one day be district-wide, Niemeyer stepped up her invitations and publicity this year. The weather cooperated for Evening Magazine but not so much for Banda, Kohl-Welles or the firefighters. In fact weather alerts were issued throughout the week due to rainfall excessive even for Seattle in December. Thanks in part to the presence of the firefighters during a deluge the students reached $1,000.
Niemeyer loves the satisfaction and sense of power that the fund drive provides the students. They tote in baggies of change and boast of cleaning out pockets and rummaging beneath couch cushions. They learn to do the math. One-thousand dollars equals 1,492 meals.
For the North Beach teachers and staff the student’s enthusiasm for every nickel and dime dropped in a safety cone was a balm for the sadness they were trying to mask. Along with other teachers Niemeyer was thinking about how she would protect her students, “I don’t have enough cupboards to hide them,” she found herself thinking, and then she wondered at a world in which she has to consider such measures.
The Newtown tragedy doesn’t allow any small town or elementary school to think, “It could never happen here.” The question is what will we do about it now, arm our schools or at the least find a way to disarm a populace of assault weapons. “If this doesn’t become the moment of change,” Niemeyer said, “then what else would it take?”
Even for families who lost a child, life will go on. Children and families still need to be fed. Students, but especially adults, need to see that generosity and good still thrive. In Newtown, Connecticut angel figures appeared along the roadways. By North Beach Elementary it was children in safety vests at crosswalks and corners holding bright orange cones, filling more than one need.
North Beach could still meet their $1,200 fundraising goal. Contributions can be sent to North Beach P.T.A., 9018 24th Ave NW, Seattle 98117 (earmarked for Northwest Harvest). www.northbeachelementary.org
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