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Standing Strong Against Hunger

NEA Delegates Spend RA Raising Funds, Resources for Needy

July 03, 2011
By Kevin Hart

“It’s a shame how many children in this country go hungry,” said paraprofessional Doreen Raferty, shaking her head.

Raferty has seen childhood hunger first hand. She’s seen it during her years working in New York City schools. She’s seen it in the long lines snaking from her local food bank.

And as a member of the National Education Association, she is doing something about it.

Raferty is one of the volunteers soliciting donations of cash and food for the Greater Chicago Food Depository at this year’s Representative Assembly. The booth is located across from the escalators outside the RA hall.

From left, New York City paraeducator Doreen Raferty, California teacher Junka Ezaki, and Shelvy Young Abrams, chair of the United Federation of Teachers (New York City) paraprofessional chapter, solicit donations for local aid organizations.

The Greater Chicago Food Depository distributes food through a network of 650 pantries, soup kitchens and shelters to 678,000 adults and children in Cook County every year – last year alone, more than 66 million pounds of food were distributed.

At each year’s RA, NEA’s Community Service Caucus helps to solicit donations for a local food bank. Junka Ezaki, a teacher from Tustin, CA, has helped coordinate the effort for the past several years.

This year, Ezaki and her fellow volunteers are soliciting food, cash and checks for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, as well as hotel toiletries for local homeless shelters; school supplies for the Ronald McDonald House; and books for Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital.

For educators like Raferty, helping those who are less fortunate is more than just the right thing to do – it’s deeply personal. Educators’ students are often those served by local aid organizations. And keeping kids’ bellies full, Raferty points out, is one of the easiest ways to improve student achievement.

“When kids come to school hungry, you can tell,” she said. “They can’t concentrate. They can’t perform. No one should have to go hungry.”

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