Saugerties Builder’s Club learns about making the holidays better for others

Kids in the Jr. High Builders Club

The Saugerties Junior High School Builder’s Club last month donated 15 boxes of food to St. John the Evangelist Church as part of its annual homeroom food drive contest. The kids in Drew Carpino and Kimberly Petramale’s home rooms split the grand fundraising prize, a breakfast from Dunkin’ Donuts. 

Hope Antonelli, a ninth grade English teacher, is the faculty adviser to the Builder’s Club, which began the annual pre-Thanksgiving food drive in 2000. The club, a sister organization to the high school’s Key Club, is Kiwanis-sponsored. The seventh and eighth graders are limited to the kinds of fundraising and events with which they can get involved.

“Key Club does more out in the community, like the Garlic Festival, but my kids don’t drive, so we try to focus most of our stuff in school,” said Antonelli. “We do a lot of bake sales, and then we donate the proceeds to local families or charities. It’s like their first real experience in raising funds or collecting funds for people in need.”

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At the start of November, each of the 14 classrooms in the junior high school involved in the fundraising efforts were given a large cardboard box festooned in seasonal wrapping paper. Carpino said the Builder’s Club made the contest itself fun. 

“Every morning during announcements they would encourage all the homerooms to get as much donations as they could and say who was in the lead etc…” he said. “So it made it really exciting.”

Antonelli said that the most popular items are generally boxes of cereal, and instant or canned food. The 47-member Builder’s Club tries to work with a different local group or organization each year, from houses of worship to food pantries. 

“Somebody from Catskill reached out to us and asked us if we could do it with them next year,” Antonelli said. 

Carpino’s class filled five boxes. While the class enjoyed the donuts and hot chocolate, they found the reward of selflessness was greater.\

“Of course winning the Dunkin’ Donuts was awesome for the kids, but more importantly they gathered together a ton of items for donations to help families around the holidays, which was really rewarding. I was proud to see my students work as a group and put in the effort to make the holidays better for others who are less fortunate.”

The Builder’s Club has moved on to its December drive, collecting toys for kids at Albany Medical Center. “Every member brings in a toy, and it doesn’t have to be expensive,” said Antonelli. “We encourage the homerooms and anybody in the school to get involved. Kiwanis is actually giving us a monetary donation to go out and purchase toys.”

Donating toys to Albany Medical Center is a relatively recent addition to the annual toy drive, one Antonelli said makes sense because the hospital has taken care of plenty of local kids.

The hospital is not always on everyone’s radar around the holidays. “I think a lot of people miss the hospitals at Christmas,” she said. “There’s so many other toy drives. We decided to put up theirs, and they were so elated.”

The Builder’s Club toy drive runs through Monday, December 17.

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