Brothers inspire MS clothing drive
From the SKANEATELES JOURNAL | Reyan and Amaan Usmani may be short on words, but they are big on heart.
The two brothers — Reyan, a Skaneateles Middle School seventh-grader, and Amaan, a State Street Intermediate School third-grader — led the effort for the second year in a row to collect used coats and clothing at the middle school and purchase new items for those in need around the area.
This year, Middle School Principal Gary Gerst said, the Usmanis waited until after the holidays to start the clothing drive, a timeline that the principal noted worked out just fine with the lack of cold weather until recently.
Gerst said the school put out notice of the drive in its announcements, and he included in the news updates he puts online. From there, the bags began piling up, starting with a table that held the items the Usmanis collected themselves.
"It started off with what the Usmanis donated, which was a lot of new clothes, and then it got bigger and bigger," the principal said.
Despite their accomplishment, the brothers sat mostly silent during an interview Friday — the last day of the drive — perhaps showing their humility as they looked on as Gerst spoke about the work done by one of the middle school's current students and one of the building's future pupils.
"We save up our money from our birthdays and our holidays from the year, and with that money, we buy the coats," Amaan said.
"It was really good," Reyan said. "There's lot of clothes to be donated. There's a lot of clothes there."
The principal said he wanted to do the coat drive again after its success last year, but he also did not want to pressure the boys and make them feel like they had to do it.
On the contrary, Gerst said, the brothers came to him and expressed an interest in collecting coats and clothes this year. So, the Usmanis brought in their items and Gerst set up a table to put the bags on display.
"He and his brother are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts," Gerst said. "I don't think there's too many kids that save their money and then will donate it for the good of other kids."
Gerst said he told the school improvement team, a group that includes several parents of middle schoolers, about the drive, and those people stepped up to contribute to the effort with their own used items.
"It just brought a smile to my face because the parents were bringing it in in the mornings when they dropped their kids off," he said, noting children grow out of their coats and parents do not know where to bring them. "It was neat to see the parents start to bring in the bags."
He said staff initially left the coats and clothing in the bags in which people brought them to the school, but a custodian came up the idea to transfer the items to larger trash bags to consolidate the space taken up.
"What he wanted to do was measure it so we could keep track," Gerst said, noting the group collected 44 large trash bags of items. "It started with the Usmanis. Their clothes were there, and we had a big table out."
Unlike other fundraiser the school conducts from time to time, the principal noted that this one did not include a competition among the students to see who could donate the most items.
"We didn't count up who brought up the most clothes," Gerst said. "They just kept coming and coming, which was really neat."
He noted the bags of coats and clothes took up the entire space in front of a showcase in the lobby of the middle school. Though the boys let their actions do the talking rather than the words, Gerst said he wanted people to know "how big their hearts are."
"They're great role models for other kids to hear about," Gerst said. "My hope is that Reyan has started a tradition for us that now people will look to do this, so that when A gets here, he just continues to help us grow it even more."
Safora Usmani, the boys' mother, said she was proud of her sons' thoughtfulness and generosity.
"Honestly, it's a blessing that the kids put up their money," she said. "They are so sensitive. ... I'm thankful to God that he gave me kids like that."
She said Reyan got the idea two years ago when he heard his mother and a neighbor talking about people at school who did not have warm jackets for the cold weather.
Though Reyan listened but did not say anything at the time, a week later he reminded his mother that the family has extra jackets — she buys each of the boys two coats so they have one to wear while she washes the other — that they could give to those who need them.
He then came up with the idea to ask the principal about doing a coat drive at the school to get other people to contribute to the cause. Amaan, however, asked his brother how he would feel about getting a used coat, so the younger boy took money from his piggy bank to buy new items.
"The whole year, they saved the money to get that," Safora Usmani said. "They want to keep this tradition."
Gerst said the school already received a request from someone who knew it was holding a coat drive, so that person came and took some of the clothes to help people in need.
"We know it's already helped two or three families," he said. "It's a special thing to have kids think about others like that."
Skaneateles Journal Editor Jonathan Monfiletto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (315) 283-1615. Follow him on Twitter @Skan_Monfiletto.