Since March 25, one of the Curtis Guild Elementary School’s fourth-grade classes has been collecting their toys and selling them during lunchtime and recess to raise funds for the families affected by the New England Casket Company’s devastating nine-alarm fire on March 15, when the family-owned business of nearly 80 years succumbed to flames.
“We want to be a community that respects and helps each other,” explained Wilson, one of the students. “We want to be kind and show that we have a heart.”
Teacher John Rogers hopes his students learn that when tragedies occur, and neighbors are struggling, they should lend a generous hand. He asserts that wealth is not necessary to contribute to the community; only kindness and support.
“Sometimes you lose a job and feel like nothing is going to work out,” Cynthia said. “Sometimes people help out and make you feel like you’re not alone. Even kids can make a big difference. We feel proud.”
The concerned students took a field trip down Bennington Street to the site of the Casket Company, where they met owner, Lou Tobia, Jr., whose graciousness was staggering.
“When I said, ‘Raise your hand if you brought in toys or helped at the store,’ I could tell he was feeling a type of magic,” described Rogers. “He knew he was not alone. We care.”
Due to heavy smoke during the fire, some Orient Heights residents were encouraged to evacuate and take temporary shelter at the Guild School. Rogers, and many Guild students, live in Orient Heights, and remember seeing black smoke from their homes.
“There were flakes of fire shooting up,” Jari reported. “There was a lot of smoke and people telling people to back up.”
Unity, appreciation, and charity are the important values that Rogers wishes to instill in his students through the School Store fundraiser.
Before dismissal, Ana added, “We are practicing empathy, and putting ourselves in other people’s shoes.”