Nestled in the plains of Western Nebraska, and thousands of miles from the coast of Japan, Ogallala, Nebraska is an agricultural town of merely 5,000 people. Rather than its famed "End of the Texas Trail" epithet, one could designate it as a "Small Town with a Big Heart", after it came together to support its local high school fundraiser.
Following Japan's natural disaster in March, Ogallala High School Spanish teacher, Rosa Zimmerman, was deeply saddened, "I was feeling very upset that so many people were hurting, and one day I could not stand it anymore." Her compassion for the Japanese people would be the catalyst in a fundraiser that went beyond even her wildest expectations. "I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to make $5,000, but deep down I really wanted to raise $10,000," Zimmerman said. Her husband, Steve, is president of Ogallala's American ShiZuki Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of ShiZuki Electric Group, of Nishinomaya, Japan. Steve and his co-workers also wanted to aid the victims in Japan, and told his wife that ShiZuki would match up to $10,000 of the money she raised at school.
Zimmerman visited with co-workers and club members at the high school to brainstorm what could be done in order to raise money for Japan via the Red Cross. Senior Allison Reimers plainly said, "Why don't we make sack lunches?" So sack lunches it was.
What ensued was no small task, but rather the epitome of extreme effort and organization of everyone involved. All of the clubs at the high school volunteered to donate money for supplies, and several businesses in the community made small donations as well. One of the most impressive aspects however, was the organization involved in preparing 460 sack lunches. Students made order sheets, assigned businesses to different clubs, and then delivered them to local businesses. Businessmen and women could choose between a ham and cheese sandwich, turkey and cheese sandwich, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. All lunches would be served with a bag of chips, cookies or brownies, and a bottle of water, and delivered to the business on Monday, April 18th. The price of the lunches was five dollars.
After collecting the orders, Zimmerman, students and one other teacher met at the high school on Sunday, April 17th, to assemble the lunches. No strangers to Henry Ford's use of the assembly line, students put the lunches together in such a manner and boxed them according to the appropriate businesses. The lunches were then stored overnight in a teacher's walk-in freezer, and delivered the following morning. Other faculty members sacrificed their coveted planning periods and delivered the lunches in shifts to the local businesses.
The fundraiser was a huge success, and the shared reaction of every student was they were simply "shocked" at how much money they could raise making sack lunches, and feeling so thankful that they could help the Japanese people, even if they were very far away, and may never get to see the people they helped.
"It was a wonderful experience," Zimmerman said, "I am very thankful that we were able to help the people in need. The students worked very hard and the community responded well. I think we all learned different things from this and it is very rewarding knowing that the people in Japan will be helped by our school."
So how much exactly did this small high school raise? Together with American ShiZuki, they raised a whopping $14,670 for the American Red Cross. "The kids were so excited!" Zimmerman chuckled, "they wanted to create a 'big check' like the ones on the game shows." When the American Red Cross representative arrived at the school to retrieve the check, she was overwhelmed with the amount, "I was just at a school in North Platte [a nearby town of 25,000], and they had raised $1,000, which I considered a lot, but this is just overwhelming." Zimmerman was specific in requesting the money go directly to Japan, rather than to the Red Cross in general, and the representative assured her that it would all benefit the relief effort in Japan. Although the fundraiser was most definitely a lot of extra work at a busy time of the school-year, Zimmerman denied it, and simply smiled and said, "we just wanted to help."
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