By Johnny Jackson
Regan Troy, and Sydney Steele, said they were excited to be participants in an effort to collect winter coats for needy children.
The East Lake Elementary School fifth-graders are leaders of the school's student council organization, which helped organize the collection of nearly 400 gently-used winter coats for needy children. Their robust efforts also earned them $5,000.
"It was a big deal for us," said Steele, standing among those honored at a school-wide assembly Monday. East Lake was then honored with a $5,000 award, and in-school party, for winning the first '1 Warm Kid' national coat drive, sponsored by children's retailer P.S. from Aeropostale.
The school, located in northeast McDonough, won out over nearly 100 schools nationwide by collecting and donating 387 coats for the
campaign, held during the month of October.
East Lake's part in the campaign began with the idea of Susan McVey, a P.S. from Aeropostale customer, and a member of the school's Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO).
"I'm elated," said McVey, seeing the challenge come to fruition.
McVey said she received a consumer e-mail from the retailer in early October informing her of an opportunity for her school to give to charity, as well as the chance to win $5,000.
McVey said she and other PTO members, like Amy Steele, and Lisa Troy, researched the national coats drive contest. The PTO, quickly, joined with East Lake's student council members to announce the effort in class, and through the school's closed-circuit ELKN television network, East Lake Kids Network.
The winter coat campaign collected more than 14,000 coats, according to Aeropostale Vice President of Stores, Scott Miller, who attended Monday's recognition ceremony at East Lake.
"They were amazing," he said. "Obviously, they are a great bunch of kids. They were very competitive."
Miller noted the school of roughly 720 students beat out its nearest competitor, a school in Jersey City, N.J., which collected 325 coats.
Miller said the retailer matched the campaign's coat collections with 14,000 new coats, and added about 80,000 more new coats to be distributed to family shelters in local communities. Coats collected at East Lake will go to the non-profit Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency (ACSS), formerly known as Samaritan House of Atlanta.
The Atlanta-based non-profit received two sets of coats -- 1,700 coats in all -- from the coat drive, for children and adults, according to ACSS President and CEO Charles Edwards.
The children's coats, Edwards said, are being distributed to area agencies focused on supporting children. He said the adults' coats are being used to support ACSS's mission.
"The mission of the ACSS is to empower homeless individuals in the greater Atlanta community to achieve economic self-sufficiency and their ultimate potential to drive in life," Edwards explained. "Ultimately, we are focused on helping to break the cycle of homelessness."
For East Lake's part in that effort, the school will use most of its $5,000 award to pay for the licensing of a math software program, according to East Lake Assistant Principal Stacey Barnes.
Barnes acknowledged the school community had been planning to raise money for the software program to aid in classroom instruction on the subject, and help improve students' overall standardized test scores. "It's part of our continuous improvement plan to make good test scores better," said Barnes.
Money left over will likely be used to supplement school needs, added Barnes, reiterating that Monday's award will also allow the school's PTO to refocus its efforts on raising money for other needs.