MONROE – Thanks to the Piedmont cluster schools, a Dominican teen and his family are the proud owners of a brand new home.
Students and faculty of Unionville and Fairview elementary schools and Piedmont middle and high schools recently joined together to raise funds to build a home for Antony ‘Anthony’ Caraballo and his siblings, mother and grandmother.
It all started in 2011, when Unionville Elementary School Principal Sharyn VonCannon and Union County Communication Coordinator Rob Jackson took a trip to Constanza, Dominican Republic, with Lifetouch Memory Mission. VonCannon and Jackson were working with Lifetouch on a school for impoverished children in the area when they met Anthony and his family, who were living in a wrecked bus. They immediately struck a bond with the family.
Then, in December 2012, Piedmont Middle School Principal Dr. Anne Radke traveled to Constanza with Lifetouch to help complete work on the school. Radke had heard Anthony’s story from VonCannon and Jackson and had the opportunity to meet him in person.
“He had such a winning spirit and a beautiful smile,” Radke said. “You think, ‘Man, this kid has got next to nothing.’ His mother has multiple sclerosis, his grandmother lives in these conditions with him. You just think, ‘This young man deserves so much more.’”
Upon returning to America, Radke began working with the Piedmont cluster schools to see how they could help Anthony and his family move out of the bus and into their own house. The four schools decided to hold their own fundraisers, combine the funds raised and donate the money to World Servants, the nonprofit that partners with Lifetouch for international mission projects.
“We knew we had to find a way to make this happen,” Radke said. “We said, ‘Why don’t we do this as a Piedmont cluster (project)?’”
During January and February, the schools took on a “cluster challenge.” Unionville Elementary held a penny drive, while Fairview Elementary and Piedmont High schools held their own fundraisers.
Piedmont Middle took fundraising to the next level with a “penny war.” Each grade had its own change collection jar, but instead of putting change in their own jar, students collected coins and put them in the other grades’ jars. Whichever grade had the fewest silver coins – and the most pennies – in their jar won the challenge, while the grade with the most silver coins lost.
Radke said this reverse format worked well because it urged students to bring in more silver coins, rather than just pennies. Students were more likely to donate more money if they were making the other team lose than if they were helping their own team win, she said.
“They tried to punk each other with silver coins,” Radke said.
The penny war alone raised more than $1,500, and the full cluster challenge raised $4,750 to go toward the $7,000 it cost to build Anthony’s home. Other schools from across the nation raised the remaining $3,000, and, soon after, World Servants sent a “task force” of workers to Constanza to build the house. Anthony and his family worked with the task force to help build their own home and just weeks ago received the keys and moved in.
Radke said it was exciting for the Piedmont cluster schools to be a part of this international mission project.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “The kids were involved from the get-go … This is shared with everyone (among the cluster schools). None of that could have happened without everyone’s support.”