BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been a difficult couple of months for high school seniors as their final year was cut short. Over at Bethlehem Central High School, the district’s communication specialist, JoEllen Gardner, told News10 that their students decided rather than to dwell on lost opportunities, they would instead make opportunities for others.
The senior class at Bethlehem Central High School had been working hard all year to raise money for their Senior Ball and Banquet. Together, they were able to raise $10,000. When the end of the year events were canceled, they decided to turn their initial disappointment into a gesture of goodwill.
They took the money and donated it to local organizations and businesses that are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s a unique privilege, in a way, despite all of the things that have happened that we get the honor of helping our community,” said Gillian Roeder, Vice President of the Senior Council.
Six thousand went to the South End Children’s Cafe in Albany. The program provides free healthy meals and after-school homework help for children in the south end of Albany. Many students from Bethlehem have volunteered there over the years and said they recognized the need.
“By being there, I was able to see what service they’re providing for these kids and how grateful both them and their parents are,” said Abby Sodergren, Treasurer of the Senior Council.
Founder and Director of the Children’s Cafe, Tracie Killar, told NEWS10 ABC that they typically provide free meals for 60 kids a day, but since the pandemic, they’re now serving more than 500 meals a day to children and their families.
“There were a whole bunch of emotions because I felt for the kids,” she said. “I was impressed by the students, and I was in awe of them for making such a decision and I was certainly grateful because at a time like this we really need the donations.”
The other $4,000 went to the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce that just recently started a Small Business Hardship Fund using donations from the community to assist businesses affected by the pandemic. They are providing temporary relief for utility bills for businesses ranging from bakeries to small law firms.
“We were completely surprised and thrilled,” said Chamber President, Maureen McGuiness.
She said the chamber created a short video to show their appreciation for the donation.
“I think this class is going to make their mark in the world,” said McGuinness.
“Small businesses have always supported our sports teams and our school clubs, so it was no question that we needed to return the favor,” said Katie Bailey, Secretary of the Senior Council.
“I’ve lived in Bethlehem for all 18 years of my life so this donation is only just a small token of our appreciation,” said Taylor Roddy, President of the Senior Council.
“By doing this, we’re not going to be remembered as the class that had everything taken away from them. We’ll be remembered as the class that gave back and made a positive change, which is so much more valuable,” said Roeder.
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