College Pt. students raise $2,000 during penny drive

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In a celebratory assembly May 12 the 855 students of PS 129 divided their collection to donate to the First Reformed Church, Bridge to Life, College Point Community Ambulance Corp., Poppenhusen Institute and Betty Pegen, the resident gardener for the neighborhood's Poppenhusen Memorial Park.

"It was just wonderful, the generosity and the dedication that everyone demonstrated here," parent coordinator Noreen Dennet said at the assembly at the school.

The Penny Harvest, part of a program called Common Sense New York to promote community service in schools, has been held at PS 129 in the past but never to the extent that it was done this year, Dennet said.

"When we started the harvest, it was just supposed to be about giving," she said. "I was really inspired by how these children knew their area."

While the children sat poised to hand envelopes full of money from their Penny Harvest to the charitable organizations they invited to the assembly, one former PS 129 student stopped by to make a donation of his own.

Steve Chen, the son and employee of Crystal Windows and Door Systems founder Thomas Chen, handed a $1,000 check from his company to the school for its Reading is Fundamental program.

"By giving back to the school, I feel it's good for all students to be able to learn and accomplish what I did," he said.

In keeping with the charitable nature of the day, Dennet called up each of the organizations that the students had determined were worthy of their money.

The Rev. Linda Burlew of the First Reformed Church on 14th Avenue and 119th Street said the $150 donation will go toward a community dinner at the house of worship.

"Some people come because they need food; some come because they need someone to eat with," she said. The dinner funded by PS 129 will be held Saturday, May 29, she said.

William Lacadamo, from Bridge to Life, said his group provides shelter and services to single mothers seeking refuge.

"We take in women who really are abused, have no place to go, are abandoned," he said. "Generally we try to get them through their pregnancy and get them houses. Every penny you collect will be used to the max."

The students gave Lacadamo $350.

The College Point Community Ambulance Corp., the ambulance volunteers, expressed their appreciation for the $500 donation.

"Your contribution today will be put to good use," volunteer Richard Clausen promised.

The last of the money was split into $500 for the Poppenhusen Institute, which some of the sixth-grade students visited earlier this year, and $500 for Pegen, the 92-year-old woman who voluntarily tends to the garden around the Poppenhusen Monument.

ward Susan Brustmann, the director of the institute, said the money would go toward two public Sept. 11 memorial benches. She attributed all the beauty around the institute and memorial to Pegen.

"She's got a big heart; she's St. Francis of Assisi," Brustmann said.

"She's really inspired so many people," Dennet added.

Pegen took the microphone briefly to wish the children the same enjoyment of the Earth that she has experienced.

"I wish to God you all have a beautiful garden," she said.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:05 pm, October 10, 2011
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