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By C. Jayden Smith

To chip in with worldwide efforts to help Ukrainian refugees in the midst of the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War, San Clemente’s Truman Benedict Elementary recently raised $4,650 to go to the World Central Kitchen (WCK).

Marie Clinkinbeard, a second-grade teacher at the school, spearheaded the effort in the first few days after the conflict broke out. She had read stories about how citizens were being affected and about the WCK’s Chefs for Ukraine initiative, which serves hot meals to fleeing refugees at border crossings across southern Poland. 

Given Truman Benedict’s propensity to fundraise, Clinkinbeard figured that the school and its surrounding community could contribute somehow. 

“I thought, ‘Let’s just collect coins,’ since (the school) just had this bigger fundraiser where parents were writing checks for quite a lot of money for that Jog-A-Thon,” she said. “I thought, ‘Well, if we collect change, that’s something.’”

Before kicking off the drive, Clinkinbeard approached the assistant principal, Rebecca Bailey, and the PTA, and both supported her.

She then emailed all the teachers to inform them, and set up sand buckets by each of their doors where students could drop in money while entering class. The donation period lasted from March 28 to April 1, and all throughout, students were bringing in $10 and $20 bills as opposed to quarters and nickels. 

“Little did we know that a few teachers had to help take all this change to the bank every day because it was that heavy,” Clinkinbeard said.

The teachers introduced the donation’s reasoning by giving a simplified explanation of where the refugees were going, and that since they had to move quickly, many were hungry and thirsty. Even without diving into the details, the students understood the gravity of the situation.

“Again, it was very (much) like let’s help these people; we have so much, you never have to think about where we’re going to get our food,” Clinkinbeard said of the talking points teachers made. “There are people that their only concern is just being able to eat, they’re that hungry. So, just really simplifying the whole crisis, not getting too much into who was fighting who, people dying, and bombs.”

She added that it was important for the students to know how fortunate they are, that others don’t have nearly as much as them, and the good feelings that come with helping other people. 

Those especially who brought in a contribution from their own money, such as three dollars, felt involved and connected to the donation. 

“It’s good for them to see that there’s so many people in this world that have far, far less than they do,” Clinkinbeard finished. 

The school’s efforts raised a total of $4,150, and the PTA contributed an additional $500.

C. Jayden Smith

C. Jayden Smith graduated from Dana Hills High in 2018 before pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in digital and broadcast journalism from the University of North Texas. After graduating in December 2020, he reported for the Salina Journal in Salina, Kansas. Jayden loves college football and bothering his black lab named Shadow.

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