As third-year president of the AARP Greenfield District 2611, Jerollyn McMahon, 70, receives a lot of information about what other districts are doing to give back to their communities.
"After I read these newsletters [from other districts], I felt that our district was a little lax in getting involved ... so I came up with ways to become more active," she said.
In June, her division launched a program to collect canned goods for the St. Rosalia Food Bank in Greenfield. In December, members will give wrapped gifts to residents of a local, as yet undetermined, nursing home. And a new project seeks to help two Greenfield elementary schools by collecting school supplies for youngsters in grades K-8.
"I knew about the budget cuts from the news," Mrs. McMahon said. "I learned more from students who transferred from Greenfield Elementary to the St. Rosalia Academy because sports programs in softball and baseball had been cut at their public school due to lack of funds. When I spoke to principal Eric Rosenthal at Greenfield Elementary, he said the sports cuts were minor compared to the number of teachers and staff he had to let go."
Greenfield, which has about 380 students, also scaled down the amount of school supplies it distributes, even though Mrs. McMahon said each teacher there spends between $200 and $500 out of their pockets for school supplies.
"A lot of parents don't have the means to buy them," she said. "Last year, the school even had a coat drive because a lot of students didn't have a decent one to wear."
Nearby St. Rosalia Academy, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, wasn't affected by the state budget cuts because it's a parochial school that relies on tuition and fundraising efforts to operate. However, Mrs. McMahon said a many children from the Latino community are enrolling in the school and that their parents are having trouble meeting the tuition. She added that some long-time residents who send their children to St. Rosalia are also having trouble meeting bills.
To help, the AARP district sent out a newsletter to its 200 members telling them about the new project to collect school supplies and asking them to bring them to the next AARP meeting at the St. Rosalia Academy at 2 p.m. next Thursday.
"We're asking for anything in the way of school supplies -- pencils, pens, notebooks, folders, crayons, scissors, erasers, rulers, glue sticks, construction paper, even hand calculators if they can afford them," Mrs. McMahon said. "We'll divide what we collect proportionate to the number of students in each school by the end of the month."
The project got a shot in the arm when AARP member Kris Stebler of Greenfield had dinner with several faculty members of University of Pittsburgh's nursing school and asked if they'd like to contribute school supplies to the project. Ms. Stebler also phoned Jacqueline Dunbar-Jacob, dean of the nursing school, to tell her of the project.
"Dean Dunbar-Jacob then discussed the project with the university's Nursing Student Organization, whose roughly 75 members decided to join the project," she said.
On Sept. 3, the organization placed a box at the Victoria Building (headquarters for the nursing school) in which students could place donated school supplies.
"Our student nurses consider the project a community service effort," said Melanie Parker, 20, of Pittsburgh and community service chair for Pitt's Nursing Student Organization. "Although we're keeping the collection box in Victoria, we're ... encouraging [other student organizations] to contribute."
Next Thursday, the nursing school students will take collected supplies to next Thursday's AARP meeting.
"Our members are very happy to be doing something positive for the community," Mrs. McMahon said.
To donate, call 814-964-1177 or 412-421-5364.
Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org