Lincoln students model their bracelets.

Lions lending a helping hand


In light of recent natural disasters and tragedy, a local effort is trying to improve the lives of others halfway around the country.

Shelly Otwinowski, a 4th-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary School, is leading an initiative to raise money for a Florida school affected by Hurricane Michael.

“We were studying severe weather in science when Hurricane Michael ripped through Panama City, FL. My students wanted to reach out and help kids affected by [it],” Otwinowski said.

Otwinowski’s class began searching for a way to help out after watching video footage of the hurricane’s effects.

“While watching a roof being blown off a school building, one of my 4th-grade students with tears in his eyes asked, ‘How can we help them?’ This comment ignited our school service project-Kids Helping Kids,” Otwinowski said.

In order to help out the affected students, Otwinowski had to find both a way to raise money and a school to donate to. Fortunately, a connection to the affected area was quickly made.

“My college roommate, a teacher in Elkhart, and her mother, a former teacher/counselor, now residing in Panama City and I discussed how to collaborate on this service project. The proceeds go to the families of Oakland Terrace Elementary School in Panama City, FL because of the destruction [caused by] Hurricane Michael,” Otwinowski said.

Lincoln Elementary, alongside Cleveland Elementary of Elkhart, began selling wristbands to raise funds for the recipient school. Rather than purchasing them, a donation of $1 or more is accepted.

“The green wristbands represent rebirth and regrowth. #PANAMACITYSTRONG and #850STRONG are printed on them,” Otwinowski said.

The recovery effort will not be easy, but Otwinowski and her partners hope that they can help in some capacity.

“The recovery process after a major hurricane takes years. Many families have lost their homes and belongings; therefore, they are displaced, living in tents or cars, or homeless,” Otwinowski said.

Members of the community are invited to help with this effort by donating to the fund.

“If any community member is interested in supporting our school service project, Kids Helping Kids, please send a monetary donation to Lincoln School, 402 Harrison Street, LaPorte, IN 46350. Checks can be made payable to Lincoln School PTA,” Otwinowski said.

To learn more about this initiative or to meet some of the people behind it, a video providing some detail can be found on YouTube at the following link:

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