Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Dear Santa letters from Brooklyn elementary school break hearts



They're the saddest kids' holiday letters in Brooklyn.

Children from a Crown Heights elementary school are not asking for toys, but food, clothes, a better place to live and money for college as their gifts this year.

"I need food," wrote one Public School 241 student. "I need . . . not to starve every morning, noon and evening. I just can't take it anymore. Me and my family are hungry."

The 571 pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students at the school on President St. were assigned to write letters laying out their needs this holiday season so teachers and others could help.

What the adults got back shocked even the most city-hardened observers.

"These are issues on a grand scale and issues that highlight the disparity that continues to exist in Brooklyn," said City Councilwoman Letitia James (WFP-Fort Greene), who thought the kids would request dolls, bikes and other toys.

"I cried when I read these letters," said James, who is collecting donations. "These children are carrying a heavy weight on their shoulders."

The heartbreaking letters include pleas for a new stove, money to pay the bills and new homes because of mice, crime and overcrowding.

Despite their circumstances, some of the children managed to look to the future.

"My mom and dad had money but it's for food and clothes and bills," wrote one child. "I don't want me going to college to take from food and clothes and bills. I know college is far away from [now] but, can you help me with my college fund," wrote a fifth-grader.

Others couldn't escape thoughts of their frightening surroundings.

"I hear shooting sometimes and it wakes up my baby sister," one child wrote. "So please help me move out of the neighborhood."

PS 241 Principal Philip Dominique said the letters reflect the most extreme cases at the school, where 81% of students are considered poor, according to Department of Education statistics.

"I don't think it's unique to our school," said Dominique. "Because of the current economic problem, there is an impact," such as fewer jobs or less hours of work for parents.

"I prayed when I read these letters," said Florencia Chang-Ageda, a Community Education Council vice president, who has asked her church to help 25 of the students. Chang-Ageda also has raised $500 for grocery-store gift certificates for the families. "It's sad. It's very sad."

Though they know their families are hurting, the children of PS 241 still managed to be grateful for what they do have.

"For Christmas my dad can only give me love," wrote one child, "and I am thankful for that."

The Daily News article may be found here: http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/brooklyn/2008/12/22/2008-12-22_santa_letters_from_children_at_brooklyn_.html

Thank you to the warm individuals that have contacted out office...


pdomini2@schools.nyc.gov or call Florencia Chang, Vice President of the Community Education Council at School District 17 at 718-909-4943.

Anyone who donates will be mentioned on CM James' next newsletter.

Also, if you're interested in donating to schools in the 35th District that need your help, please support Team Tish For Schools at http://www.donorschoose.org/donors/viewChallenge.html?id=18308&utm_source=NE&utm_medium=Tish&utm_content=Thalia031708&utm_campaign=NE.


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