Two firefighters decided a few months ago to give back to students in northern Hudson County by raising money for school supplies.
This fundraising effort grew into “North Hudson Back to School Patrol.” Firefighters Jose Pujols and Alider Pratts hope to continue it in the years to come.
Pujols thought of donating school supplies to students around their firehouse. Then the two men collaborated. The donations grew to include one school in each of the towns covered by the North Hudson Fire and Rescue squad.
North Bergen’s John F. Kennedy School, Webster Elementary School in Weehawken, Washington Elementary School in Union City, West New York’s Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School and Guttenberg’s Anna L. Klein Elementary School all received donations.
Pratts said that they had asked for firefighters and fire officers to donate $10 for the cause a few months ago. They raised $1,500 for supplies.
“It was such a great feeling… finally getting to see the smiles on the kids’ faces.” – Alider Pratts.
Last month, first and second graders were treated to a visit by firefighters, who explained fire prevention drills and gave them the school supplies.
“It was such a great feeling to see it all come together, because [there were] weeks of preparation, getting authorization from the school boards, getting all of the money together, and all of the hard work and effort and finally getting to see the smiles on the kids faces,” said Pratts. “It was just amazing.”
Fun for students
When Pratts visited Klein School, along with fellow firefighter Steven Hillis, the students were ecstatic for their visit.
“[They are] so comfortable speaking to the kids and the kids really got a kick out of them because they did a little fire prevention skit program before the donation,” said Principal Pedro Garrido.
Pratts’ son attends Klein School in the first grade. He demonstrated stop, drop, and roll for his classmates.
Garrido said that the students were also very appreciative of the gifts.
“I thought it was a great idea, because so many of our students are so needy that any type of donation would be helpful,” said Garrido.
He said that the 125 bags of supplies given were not only items that were essential for students’ educations, but showed students how NHFRF was involved with the community. He said that any help was welcomed by parents struggling in this economy.
Looking toward next year
Pratts said that they were able to donate around 550 bags of supplies to students in five schools in North Hudson.
They also had a surplus of supplies this year, which they hope to use in next year’s back-to-school patrol.
“We want this to be a yearly thing,” said Pratts. “Once we put everything together we realized that every year each of us can get more and more participation and hopefully we can donate to a lot more schools and kids next year.”
Pratts hope to reach double the schools and children in 2010.
Tricia Tirella may be reached at TriciaT@hudsonreporter.com.