By Dawn Krebs
ST. LUCIE COUNTY -- Even though the horror of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place hundreds of miles away, many organizations here on the Treasure Coast are stepping up to help the small community in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six adults, including himself.
Part of the support will come from the local nonprofit group, the United Way of St. Lucie County.
"We will work directly with the United Way of Newton to provide support and resources where and when they become identified and needed," said Karen Knapp, the United Way of St. Lucie County president.
Currently, the organization is accepting donations to aid the families affected by the shooting.
"As people from Newton and beyond respond to this heartbreaking tragedy, they are turning to the United Way for ways to help," she said. "One hundred percent of all donations designated to the Sandy Hook effort will go there to be distributed."
Schools and businesses also want to help, as well.
The College Preparatory Academy of the Treasure Coast in Port St. Lucie is one of many schools that will make cards and bring in Teddy bears to send the students of the elementary school.
"Our students will be writing letters of comfort," said Erica Raines, principal of the charter school. "In addition to our students helping, our school will serve as a drop-off point for the Teddy bears."
The school is partnering with Treasure Coast Balloons and Party Decorating for the bear drive.
"I have five children, ages 1, 3, 7, 8 and 15," said Jodi Brown, owner of Treasure Coast Balloons. "When this shooting took place, it hit me really hard."
That evening, she was discussing the shooting with her 8-year-old daughter when the idea about the Teddy bear donations was created.
"We wanted to do something to show these families and children that people truly care and that there are still good people in this world."
The business will collect bears through Dec. 31. Some of the businesses accepting donations are: Boomerang Consignments on Bayshore Boulevard, Big Apple Pizza, also on Bayshore Boulevard, St. Lucie Bakery on Port St. Lucie Boulevard, Treasure Coast Balloons in Port St. Lucie and CPATC charter school in Port St. Lucie.
"There is nothing that can be done or said to make it better," Ms. Raines said. "But at least they will know that people do care."
To donate through the United Way, send a check to the United Way of St. Lucie County, RE: Sandy Hook, 4800 S. U.S. 1, Fort Pierce, FL 34982. For more information, call (772) 464-5300.
For more information about the Teddy bear drive and for the latest drop-off locations, call (772) 672-0895, or go online to www.facebook.com/treasurecoastballoonsandpartydecorating.