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<B>Stephan Tifft of the American Red Cross shakes hands with Bennington Elementary School students Monday after accepting a check for $155.13 raised for tsunami relief./Peter Crabtree</B>
Stephan Tifft of the American Red Cross shakes hands with Bennington Elementary School students Monday after accepting a check for $155.13 raised for
Stephan Tifft of the American Red Cross shakes hands with Bennington Elementary School students Monday after accepting a check for $155.13 raised for tsunami relief./Peter Crabtree
BENNINGTON -- Fifth-grade students at Bennington Elementary School recently teamed up to help Filipinos affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Fifth-grade Teacher Rachel Kipp said her students learned of the early November incident and immediately voiced their collective desire to help the victims.

After joining forces with Michelle Cadoret's fifth-grade class, the group of 37 students brainstormed fundraising ideas, which, according to Kipp, included a community food drop, holding a clothing collection, and a pet supplies collection.

In the end, however, the students decided to simply collect and donate money to victims by holding a penny drop.

"We decided as a whole fifth-grade that that would be the best method," said Kipp. "Then the Red Cross could use the funds as they saw fit."

Kipp explained that for two weeks, students from both classes walked from classroom to classroom, collecting money of any amount -- not just pennies -- for the cause.

Throughout the fundraising period, Kipp and Cadoret discussed with their students the importance of volunteerism and fundraising, even in a place as far away as the Philippines.

"I think for my students it's important for them to know that the world is bigger than just Bennington," said Kipp, explaining a connection she made for her students between the typhoon and Hurricane Irene, a storm that ravaged Vermont in a much less severe, yet still similar fashion.

"We made the comparison of how people lost houses, property and kind of put it on a bigger scale, saying, ‘Imagine all of that, but a lot worse and on an island.' It kind of really hit home for them -- they connected with it because of their own experiences with Hurricane Irene."

Cadoret said she tries to promote the value of community action among her students.

"We try to instill that idea that everybody is part of a group and that one person can affect how the group is that day," Cadoret said. "I also think it's important to do this kind of thing because we might be here in little Bennington, Vermont, but our contributions are helping lots of families over in the Philippines, across the world. It's important for the kids to realize that."

At the end of the two-week fundraising period, the students raised a total of $155.13, according to Kipp.

Monday morning, a check for the total amount was donated to three volunteers from Bennington's Red Cross Disaster Action Team.

Stephan Tifft, one of the volunteers, said she was touched by the donation.

"To have this donation from these children just warms my heart," she said, explaining that the money will be sent to the Red Cross's National Headquarters in Washington, D.C., and then put towards relief work in the Philippines.

"I'm so surprised at how much money they collected," said Volunteer Cheryl Remy. "It's very generous."

Of the four students present during the check-passing Monday morning -- Shane Winney and Will Prouty from Kipp's class, and Caleb Hay and Kamryn Parent from Cadoret's class -- all agreed the project was "fun."

Hay said it "felt good" to be helping others during the two weeks.

"It kind of felt like we were sharing because people over there in the Philippines don't have any homes anymore and they need food and support," he said, noting that he felt it would be a good idea to do another fundraising project again in the near future.

Principal James Law said he was understandably proud of the fifth-graders, especially because they initiated the fundraiser.

"I think it was such a wonderful thing," he said. "It's an opportunity to lend a helping hand to others and serve others in a meaningful way. When we help others, we really help ourselves."

Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at econkey@benningtonbanner.com or follow her on Twitter @bethconkey.