Van Bramer starts handing supplies out at area schools

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After three weeks of collecting donations from community members, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) began delivering more than 6,000 supplies to schools in the 26th Council District last Thursday.

“It’s one of the most gratifying things that I’ve done as a Council member,” Van Bramer said.

Charnee Perez, spokeswoman for the councilman, said Van Bramer dropped off supplies to those schools in the district that had reached out to Van Bramer’s office and expressed a need. Van Bramer stopped by at PS 11 in Woodside and IS 204 in Long Island City last Thursday, but the school supplies will go to more schools in the district. Supplies dropped off included notebooks, binders, folders, dry erase markers, backpacks, paper, pens and various art supplies.

“I think it’s wonderful,” said Michelle Contovasilis, an art teacher at IS 204. “This year in particular there seems to be no money.”

Van Bramer said he got the idea for the drive from seeing advertisements for back-to-school sales in late August. As one of eight kids, he said his mother often struggled with money and wanted to start a drive to help parents like her. Van Bramer’s office set up drop-off points at his office and the five Queens Library locations in the 26th district.

“We weren’t sure what kind of response we’d get ... but at every single location the box was full,” Van Bramer said.

Van Bramer said the drive went on for three weeks, but many residents asked to donate after the deadline, and the supplies were accepted. He said one woman he spoke to did not have children, but wanted to donate because times were difficult.

“People really care about other people and want to see children succeed,” he said.

When Van Bramer dropped off the art supplies to IS 204, he also visited one of the sixth-grade art classes to see how the students were using the supplies. The kids drew radial designs — art in a circular formation — on paper with colored markers.

Kathleen DaSilva, a 12-year-old Astoria resident and a student at IS 204, said she thought it was good the supplies were donated because the school often does not have enough supplies like notebooks.

“Without art supplies we couldn’t do art and fun projects,” DaSilva said.

Perez said Van Bramer hopes to launch the donation drive again next year. They hope to do it earlier and collect more supplies.

“The community really pulled it together,” she said.

Yvonne Leimsider, principal of IS 204, said she appreciated the supplies.

“Anytime anyone wants to donate to our school, it makes us feel good,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 6:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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