San Fernando Elementary School teacher Stephanie Levinson could not forget seeing her kindergarten students shivering in cold residences last year while trying to receive classroom instruction on Zoom, because they didn’t have enough heat or blankets in their homes to stay warm.
This winter, Levinson created an Amazon “wish list” and posted it on the app Nextdoor, seeking donations of blankets this winter. The request was made public by the media on Friday, Dec. 3. And the public’s response has been overwhelming, Levinson said.
“On Monday, 90 boxes alone from Amazon came [to the school],” she said. “We have about 200 blankets and 100 sweatshirts.”
The donations are not just blankets and sweatshirts. Other items include mittens, beanies, pencils, and toys.
Levinson and fellow kindergarten teacher Frances Corral now plan to keep accepting donations the rest of this holiday season, and try to ensure that all 575 students at the school receive at least one new present.
Their own students are covered. Each teacher has about 20 kindergarteners in their classroom.
“At first I was so grateful she included my class,” Corral said. “Then we saw everything that was coming in and, Stephanie being Stephanie, she said, ‘we’ve got to share this with the whole school.’ It became bigger than we thought.
“It was just an amazing opportunity to be included with her, and to now include other teachers and students as well,” Corral said.
Levinson first felt an altruistic tug five years ago when, during a rainy day, she noticed a student wearing a garbage bag like a jacket to try and keep himself dry. When she returned home, Levinson asked one of her neighbors if they might have a used sweatshirt their kids no longer wore. The neighbor gave her several items of used clothing. Soon others, she said, volunteered to “adopt” families and help them out during the holidays.
Levinson said she and Corral have also created “stocking stuffers” full of donated items to give their students at Christmas time.
But nothing compares to the outpouring she and Corral have witnessed this year, Levinson said.
“The ‘Nextdoor’ app seemed to get to everybody,” Levinson said. “And I think it’s because people like to see [that the donations are] going to the children. We’re showing them pictures of the children with the things; the donations are not just going to some charity where people who donate may never see (the gift). They actually see who it is going to, and who it’s helping.”
Which is why, she said, it is important to share the wealth.
“We feel bad because the rest of the [students] weren’t getting anything in the past — just the little kids would get stuff,” Levinson said. “But this year we’re trying to give everybody something. And it has been beautiful.”
She said in other years, school supplies for her class, Corral’s class, and other teachers’ classes “had come from donations.” Add on the pressures and discord created by the pandemic the past two years, and Levinson is not surprised that “a lot of teachers are leaving the profession because we’re just feeling so stressed and burned out.”
San Fernando Elementary will be closed for the three-week winter break starting Dec. 18. But Levinson and Corral will continue checking for any delivered donations. If they are unable to store them on the campus itself, vice principal Jennifer Valdemar volunteered to keep them at her residence.
“Without her we would have stopped,” Levinson said. “I was getting overwhelmed. But she’s helped us from 6:45 in the morning until late. She gave us this [library] room to put things in. She opens all the boxes and adds things to the list. She’s been an amazing help.”
Levinson said they have already given students mittens and beanies to take home. And, “We’re sending them home with umbrellas because it’s supposed to rain hard this week.”
Levinson said she even got a call from a pizza company this week willing to donate food to the school.
This show of support from the public has reaffirmed her belief that people do care about kids — and not just at Christmas.
“They’re trying to help make it easier for [teachers], too,” Levinson said. “And, honestly, it does. Seeing all this kindness and donations really boosts the morale back up.”
For those wishing to donate from the listed items on the app can visit the website link https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/2BK26BK72V1D6?ref_=wl_share