After weeks of fundraising and with the help of a local business, the Arellanes Junior High School Builder's Club came together to raise more than $11,000 -- a record for the school-based service group -- for the American Red Cross to provide relief to those affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Maria Noontime, the Builders Club is comprised entirely of seventh and eighth-grade students from Arellanes. Although the group only meets twice a month, adviser Tiffany Fife said members are constantly searching for opportunities to get involved and make a difference. In 2005, the club raised $10,000 for Katrina relief efforts; they sought to break that record for Harvey and Irma.

"I was hoping to break the record but, honestly, didn't think we would," she said. "I was thrilled and we were all very excited to know we raised that much money for a good cause and beat the record [we set with Katrina.]"

According to Fife, students raised $5,500 over the course of three weeks by putting donation boxes in each classroom and selling water, strawberries and cream, and dream bars during lunch. All items were donated, allowing the money to go straight to those in need. Although Citlali Ruiz, president of Arellanes' Builders Club, called fundraising challenging at times, she said it was well worth the struggle.

"I like being able to help the community," she said. "It was a challenge to raise the money, but we did a good job."

Shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, students presented a check for $11,218.27 to Kimberly Coley, executive director for the Ventura and Central Coast chapter of the American Red Cross. Thanking the young humanitarians for their fundraising efforts, Coley said she was surprised at the large sum the students were able to collect.

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"Raising $11,000 is no easy feat," she said. "While a $10,000 check for some of our major donors wouldn't be a huge undertaking for them, we don't typically see large donations like this come in the door."

She added: "We're always so appreciative of community support; granted, most of the community members that support us are adults. It's especially heartwarming when students gather resources like this."

Coley said the money raised by students will be disbursed between Harvey and Irma relief efforts, unless donors specified a specific relief effort. With their fundraiser now complete, Fife said the club will meet this week to decide how to support Puerto Rico and other communities impacted by Hurricane Maria.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga



Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.