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Students making birthdays brighter

November 30, 2012
Weirton Daily Times

WELLSBURG - A group of Brooke High School students and teachers are making birthdays brighter for area children in need with the help of a nonprofit organization that encourages grassroots charitable efforts through grants.

Led by Jami Packer, a special education teacher at the school, several students in the school's math club and two fellow teachers collected and packed about 370 bags containing materials for a birthday celebration to four area charities.

The four - the Greater Washington County Food Bank, Soup Kitchen of Wheeling, Community Bread Basket of Weirton and New Day Christian Church in Wellsburg - provide food to local residents in need throughout the year.

Article Photos

BIRTHDAY CREW — Several members of the Brooke High School Math Club gathered 300 bags containing materials for birthdays, such as cake mix and frosting, to be distributed at four area food pantries. Among those taking part in the project, which was led by teacher Jami Packer and funded with a grant from Guerilla Aid of New York, were front, from left, Tierra Duffy, Juliet Casinelli, Alex Sperlazza and Emily Hosler; and back, Maddie Carroll, Isabella Perrone, Krista D’Ulisse, Abbi Yachini, Dalton Minger and Noah Teaff. -- Contributed

Thanks to the students and teachers, families helped by the four also will receive "birthday bags containing a box of cake mix, can of frosting, candles and balloons.

Participating in the project were students Tierra Duffy, Juliet Casinelli, Alex Sperlazza, Emily Hosler, Maddie Carroll, Isabella Perrone, Krista D'Ulisse, Abbi Yachini, Dalton Minger and Noah Teaff and teachers Brian Cerullo and Joey Palcic.

The group gathered at the high school on a Saturday afternoon to perform the task.

Perrone delivered the birthday bags to the Soup Kitchen of Wheeling, and the bags for the Community Bread Basket of Weirton will be delivered in the near future, Packer said.

Packer, who works closely with math teachers at the school to help students with special needs develop mathematical skills, recruited the students and colleagues after learning she'd been awarded a $2,100 grant by Guerilla Aid.

A program of Global Colors, a New York-based nonprofit organization, Guerilla Aid has supported grassroots humanitarian efforts ranging from partnering with local businesses to establish an early childhood center in the South Bronx to supplying clean water systems to earthquake-stricken Haiti.

After reading of the organization and its founder, former real estate broker Barton Brooks, Packer was inspired to apply for a grant through its website at

Packer said she got the idea for the birthday bags while preparing for her son's birthday. It occurred to her that parents who depended on food pantries to feed their families might consider a birthday cake for their child an extra.

To stretch the grant farther, the group sought bargains while shopping for the supplies.

"I think we went to about a dozen dollar stores," Packer said.

Packer said she's impressed by the work of the area food pantries and hopes to continue to help them in some way, whether she receives another grant or not.

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