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Cooke Elementary School: Outreach Project Helps Those in Need

December 3, 2012

While the people of Sullivan County emerged from the power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy, they began to realize that although many had spent days in darkness, they were lucky in comparison to thousands in the downstate region.
Gina DiLorenzo, a second grade teacher at the George L. Cooke Elementary School in Monticello, was overcome with the need to help others in the ravaged areas. While listening to the radio, she heard a story about how students in many New York City neighborhoods were displaced by the storm.

Cooke staff and students  surround the mountain of donated supplies for IS 303 in Brooklyn.Under the guidance of Cooke Principal Sandra Johnson-Fields, Ms. DiLorenzo partnered with the school’s student council facilitator Kelly Mitchell, who then chose the school to help - IS 303 in Brooklyn. Together they began a fundraising campaign to collect supplies for the dislocated families from the Coney Island area. A connection was made with IS 303’s social worker Taron Williams to find out what types of products the relocated students needed.

The Cooke School Student Council quickly got to work and once the word got out to the Monticello community, donations began pouring in: clothing, coats, books, backpacks, school supplies and more.

“What our community did for another community in need is to be commended,” said Ms. Mitchell. “The generosity of the people and businesses in our school district is awesome.”

As with many fundraisers, Monticello School District Elementary EPIC Coordinator Jane Sorensen wanted to help with outreach to the business community. Unbeknown to Ms. Sorensen, the school she volunteered to help was the middle school she had attended as a child. This deeper connection became an added personal inspiration to her and the Cooke School staff who, after a week-long commitment to gathering donations, had enough supplies to fill a school bus van to capacity. Two weeks into the hurricane recovery efforts, that van delivered the much needed products to the Brooklyn school.

For Ms. Sorensen, the fact that she could actually give back to the school and staff that had given her so much - that had fostered in her the love of learning - was an unexpected chance to experience the joy of the circle of life.

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who donated items, supplies and clothing. Your help allowed the Cooke School Student Council members to watch the seed of an idea grow into a major effort that made a significant difference in the lives of others.

Many donations were given anonymously in the form of canned goods and supplies – for that, we thank the generous souls who provided in this time of need. Additional thanks to community and business members Dr. Goldstein, Tony Patel, Staples, Kristt & Company, Les Kristt, Family Drug Store, Alan Cohen, Malek Rabadi, Sullivan County Workforce, Kim Hill-James, Kiwanis of Monticello, Liberty Rotary Club, Helen Perlman and family, and Barbi Neumann from the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Letter to the community from the Cooke Elementary School Student Council

Jane Sorensen outside IS 303This letter of thanks is to acknowledge your extravagant generosity shown recently toward the students of IS 303 in Brooklyn, New York. What began as a small idea turned into a huge and heartfelt outpouring of much needed supplies.

Thank you for your participation and kindness. You helped to transition the displaced students and staff from their damaged building to a safer locale.

It is because of community members like you that our Cooke School students learn to be a more empathetic and caring group of people as they grow.


Cooke Principal Sandra Johnson-Fields, EPIC Coordinator Jane Sorensen, Assistant Principal Rosemarie Romano, teacher Gina DiLorenzo, teaching assistant Kelly Mitchell and Cooke Student Council members surround the mountain of donated supplies for IS 303 in Brooklyn.

Jane Sorensen outside of IS 303.