J.S. Jenks Students unload a school bus filled with toys for students at Ocean City Intermediate School. The principal estimated that 70 students are still displaced from their homes due to Hurricane Sandy. (Photo by Sue Ann Rybak)

by Sue Ann Rybak

Christmas came early at Ocean City (N.J.) Intermediate School, 1801 Bay Ave., on Thursday, Dec. 6, thanks to J.S. Jenks Elementary School students and the surrounding community.

It looked like an assembly line of elves as 22 Jenks Arts and Music (JAM) students, wearing red and green hats with bells, passed bags of toys to the Ocean City school’s student council members.

The JAM students unloaded a bus packed with toys that included bikes, skateboards, dolls, an Easy–Bake oven and much more.

Alice Goldsmith, a computer science teacher at Jenks, organized the effort to bring toys and gift cards to the students in Ocean City.

“Originally, I thought I would just put whatever toys we collected in my car and drive them down,” said Goldsmith, whose father owns a home in Ocean City. “But, the response was bigger than I thought.”

Andrew Leland, the music teacher at Jenks, said he lost count of how many toys were collected. Leland added that three-quarters of the bus was filled with toys. Some of the toys were donated from community members outside of Chestnut Hill, including $1,200 in toys donated by residents at Gynedd Estates retirement home in Ambler.

“It brings tears to my eyes,” said Connie Meng, the school nurse. “There are no words to describe how wonderful this is.”

Meng added that, thanks to the generosity of the students, teachers, parents and the Chestnut Hill community, students whose homes were devastated by Hurricane Sandy will still have a Christmas.

“I think it’s phenomenal that they [Jenks students] decided to take care of kids that they heard were not well off,” said Geoffrey Haines, principal at Ocean City Intermediate, “I think it’s so great to see how excited they are to give. I have three kids at home and I know how excited they are on Christmas morning. To see kids that are giving to other kids and the excitement in their eyes is amazing. It’s so heartwarming. The community here has helped, but to have kids come down from Philadelphia and say we want to do something for you – it’s just unbelievable.”

Haines said about 15 percent of the school’s 400 students were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

“Many of the students lost their toys,” he said, “and their parents don’t have the funds to replace them.”

“A lot of my friends are not living in their houses right now, so it’s really great they can get toys on Christmas,” said eighth-grader Sarah Lucy, vice-president of the student council. “We didn’t expect there to be so many toys. We are just so grateful.”

After filling the conference room full of toys, fourth and fifth-grade JAM students were treated to a tour of the school. Later, JAM students performed a short holiday concert for the fourth and fifth graders at the Ocean City school.

Jennifer Rowe, a music teacher at Ocean City Intermediate, said she was thankful that the students, through their generosity and gift of music, “shared their holiday spirit with us.”

Fatima Fleming, a fifth grader at Jenks, said many people in New Jersey lost everything they had.

“There are a lot of kids who won’t get toys this Christmas,” Fleming said. “It’s really upsetting. Hopefully, we helped make a few kids happy.”