Concord Elementary School News

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Around Town: Coats for Kids shows how warm Carrick can be

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

By Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Maybe you're stopped at a light. You look out the window and see a little kid walking to school without a proper winter coat.

That's a shame, you say. Then you drive on and forget about it.

There are at least 10 children with new coats, gloves and caps at Concord Elementary School because a lot of good people in Carrick didn't just forget about it.

"It was just an idea of ours," Lisa Ray explained when I asked how she and her husband, Tim, got the Concord Coats for Kids program rolling.

"We'd seen a lot of kids who didn't have jackets, and it was cold. And we know a lot of parents in the neighborhood are getting laid off and losing their jobs."

The Rays have a 12-year-old daughter, Jessica, and a 9-year-old son, Justin, and Mr. Ray is a regular attendee of the Parent School Community Council. He made a pitch there last fall, was encouraged to pursue his idea, and then went out to neighborhood merchants who started writing checks to the PTA.

Meantime, teachers were asked to take notice of who might not have a winter coat. Diane Dwulit, the school counselor, called the parents to see if they might need a children's coat.

"One family said no because of pride," Ms. Dwulit said, but the others were grateful.

So the Rays were told the sizes, color preferences and the gender -- no names -- and made a shopping trip Downtown to the Burlington Coat Factory late in November.

"I knew it was helping somebody so it made me feel good," Mrs. Ray said. "I wasn't going to get them something I wouldn't put my own kids in."

When the children got their coats, gloves and matching hats and assembled for a photograph -- "you never saw such smiles on these kids' faces," said Susan Barie, the Concord principal.

"It's amazing," Ms. Dwulit said of the donations. "This is not a wealthy community."

Yet such generosity is nothing new for this school community. This is a school of just 310 students, kindergarten through fifth grade, where 70 percent of the families are poor enough to qualify for a free or reduced-priced lunch. Yet when a boy lost his home in a fire a while back, the school raised $1,200 in two days.

Darlene Rigby, a single mother of two who is taking courses in the security and investigation program at the Academy of Court Reporting & Technology Downtown, said the coats were a wonderful gift for her son Jordan, 10, and daughter Sahhra, 9.

"They loved them," Ms. Rigby said of their new winter wear. "They were real nice and we're real thankful. Kids grow so fast."

The Rays hope to expand the program to help the elderly at some point. For now, checks payable to Concord PTA (with "Coats for Kids" on the memo line) may be sent to Pittsburgh Concord K-5, Attn: PTA, 2350 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210.

First published on February 9, 2010 Brian O'Neill:

More articles by this author by clicking here

On March 12, 2009, KDKA Television's Weatherman Dennis Bowman visits Concord Elementary School:

See the short KDKA video by clicking here.

See the long 20 minute KDKA video by clicking here.

Concord Elementary students learn about Carrick history

Concord elementary students at marker.jpg

Third grade students from Pittsburgh Concord K-5 visit the site of John M. and Harriet Duff Phillips home on Brownsville Road

Third grade classes of Pittsburgh Concord K-5 greeted Julia Tomasic and John Rudiak of the Carrick-Overbrook Historical Society on Wed., May 25, to learn more about one of Carrick famous residents.

The lecture, held in the school auditorium, was to be about John M. Phillips and his role in local and Pennsylvania history but gradually turned to all local history. The afternoon began with a tour of the original homestead of John M. and Harriet Duff Phillips located next to the school, currently the site of St. Pius X Catholic Church.

All that remains is the original stone wall built in 1890, which the children excitingly touched and patted; amazed it is more than 120 years old. After the tour, a slide show illustrated how Mr. Phillips improved coal mining and showed how Carrick is located above old coal mines.

The students learned how Mr. Phillips helped create Pennsylvania state parks, including Cooks Forest and Pymatuming, the Pennsylvania State Game Commission to regulate hunting and fishing, and the Boy Scouts of America. He was also a director of South Side Hospital. Pittsburgh Phillips K-5 in South Side is named after Mr. Phillips and his wife, Harriet Duff Phillips. However, the children were most interested in the animals and birds, including a kangaroo, which the Phillips kept at their home.

Unexpectedly inquisitive, they were excited their school is the fifth building to carry the name "Concord Elementary" and that the current building dates to back to 1938, built with the help of Harriet Duff Phillips. With all the original lighting fixtures, stage and seating, the students curiously asked about former students, many realizing for the first time their own parents and grandparents may have sat and had classes there.

At the end of the lecture, postcards illustrating Carrick’s history were distributed with invitations to all to come to the Community Cornfest on August 21 in the park named after John M. Phillips.

Click here for original South Pittsburgh Reporter Article