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Sandy Hook man has idea to help teachers elsewhere

HEARST NEWSPAPER, Connecticut Post
Published 1:44 pm, Monday, December 31, 2012

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  • Volunteers, including Cheryl Ghent, center, sort donations in the "teddy bear room" of a Simms Lane warehouse in Newtown Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. Photo: Michael Duffy / The News-Times

    Volunteers, including Cheryl Ghent, center, sort donations in the "teddy bear room" of a Simms Lane warehouse in Newtown Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012.

    Photo: Michael Duffy

 

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NEWTOWN - With more than $5 million in overall donations and enough stuffed animals to fill a warehouse, officials have asked that people stop sending gifts to the grief-stricken Sandy Hook community.

Still, people from around the world ask: How can we help?

Gary Seri, general manager of the restaurant across from where the massive memorial was, has an idea. Call it Lunch and a Hug, he said

In place of more gifts to Sandy Hook, get people in their own towns to make a meal of appreciation for teachers there, he said. Ten parents donating $50 – that could feed an entire school.

"It will also give that school a small sense of bond that they're part of it," Seri said. "There are a lot of ways you can connect people without flying into Sandy Hook, Conn."

Most importantly, he said, it could be a way for teachers at others schools to know that they're loved like the teachers from Newtown.

Students from Sandy Hook Elementary are expected to return to classes elsewhere on Jan. 3 – nearly three weeks after 20 classmates and six educators were killed. Most schools across the nation are scheduled to be back in session this week.

Seri remembers some of the young victims coming into his restaurant, Stone River Grille, with their parents. The restaurant also hosted one of the families after their 7-year-old's funeral, and he brought Christmas meals to some of those Sandy Hook families.

Knowing that people are bringing kindness for beloved teachers in their own towns would make people in the tight-knit community of Sandy Hook happy, Seri said.

"There are hearts that are still broken," he said of his own town. "Just because all this goes away doesn't send the pain away."

But they have each other – and enough donations and cards and goodwill. It's time to share with special teachers outside Sandy Hook, sending a message of love with them in mind, he said.

"I guarantee," he said, "if you feed school teachers in honor of these people, they will feel connected to this."

Casey McNerthney can be reached at 206-448-8220 or at caseymcnerthney@seattlepi.com. Follow Casey on Twitter at twitter.com/mcnerthney.