Bake sale raises nearly $5,000 for Newtown families

Graduates of The Academy, Milford’s alternative education high school, raised nearly $5,000 for families impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting by selling baked goods in front of their school.

After only three days last week, the small group of former students had raised $4,200 and looked like they were heading toward $5,000 as people continued to stop and hand them money.

Hannah Pimenta, who organized the bake sale with her roommate Teresa Montanari, said the sale far exceeded their goal of $500.

Daisy Fleishman, one of the participants, said people were being very generous, some handing over large bills — even a $100 bill — for the cause, and not even taking their baked good.

Pimenta said she returned home in the days following the tragic shooting to see her roommate watching the news and crying. The two decided they wanted to do something to help and called Annaliese Spaziano, principal at The Academy, to see if they could have a bake sale there. Spaziano said ‘yes.’

The money will be turned over to the Newtown Police Department to distribute, Pimenta said.

The students who gathered in front of the school last week graduated from the alternative high school between 2010 and 2012 and still maintained contact.

“People have been great,” Pimenta said. “They drive up and say ‘God bless you guys for doing this’.”

Montanari said one woman they didn’t know stayed for two hours to help with the sale, even though it was outside and it was cold.

They said the effort made them feel better about a tragedy that left them feeling helpless and sad, and it seemed to make others feel better too just because they could hand over some money that would go to the families.

“I think it helps people cope,” Montanari said. “That’s what initiated this, a feeling of helplessness.”

The group settled on donating the money to the Newtown police after looking at several funds that have been established since the shooting. Pimenta said they wanted to make sure the money went directly to the families for whatever costs they may encounter.

Mary Pimenta, Hannah’s sister, said she expects people may need money for bills if they’ve missed work because of the tragedy, or maybe for scholarships to set up in their children’s names.

Montanari said she doesn’t’ care what the families spend the money on, so long as it makes them feel better.

“We just want money to be the last thing they have to worry about,” she said.

The girls said they’d be happy if the families took the money and went shopping at the mall, if that would give them some moments of peace. Even a trip. If they took money and found a way to enjoy themselves by getting away, that too would be great, they said.

“It’s really not even about the money,” Pimenta said, talking about this collection and all the others taking place around the state and country. “It’s to show them that we care.”

Hannah and her sisters, Mary and Sarah, did lots of baking last week. The Academy opened its doors so they could do some baking there, and people even dropped off baked goods after they saw the group outside the school.

“People have joined us with signs, Olympic Donut gave us free coffee, and people are honking their horns as they drive by,” Montanari said. “I think this kind of thing — helping others even in just a small way — brings us together as a community and helps us cope.”