Wednesday, March 26, 1997
School pizza venture
is slice of flood charity

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Neediest Kids of All Flood Relief Fund
BLUE ASH - The smell of pizza drifts down a corridor of Maple Dale Elementary School. Its origin is Room 14, where student hosts holding handmade menus greet visitors.

The room is decorated with white paper tablecloths and orange crepe paper. Other children wearing aprons dart from table to table. A boy performs magic tricks and tells jokes from a stool that sits beside a portable microphone. He's the entertainment.

But this class project has taken on meaning beyond the economics of running a restaurant.

Dozens of pieces of construction paper hang on string from the ceiling. The words ''Kids Helping Kids Cafe'' are written on one side in crayon. Newspaper photographs of the Flood of 1997 are glued to the other side.

The 19 students in Stephanie Jones' second-grade class decided to donate their restaurant profits to children affected by the flood.

Tuesday was the first of three days that the restaurant will be open to school and family members. First-day profits were $127.80, and all proceeds will be donated to the Neediest Kids of All flood relief fund.

The fund - which will help local children who have lost clothing, eyeglasses, hearing aids or other special items in the flood - is accessible to all local schools whose students live in flood-damaged areas.

Although they were unaffected by the flood, Mrs. Jones' students empathized with Tristate children whose families were hard-hit.

It was 8-year-old Ben Kamm who suggested the money go to flood victims. Agreement was unanimous.

''It feels good to help,'' said Ben, sporting a chef's hat and gloves covered with sauce. Menu items were donated by local businesses.

Many customers - parents, teachers' aides, even Principal Linda Wulff - had paid in advance.

''We had $33 in the cash register this morning,'' Mrs. Jones said. ''They feel very empowered that they can contribute.''

Brittany Wissing and Allison Jacobs worked as servers.

''It made us sad to see what happened to the other kids,'' Allison said. ''I hope they can buy new clothes and stuff.''

She was especially attentive to one of the customers - her dad, Dan Jacobs of Sycamore Township.

''The service is a bit slow,'' Mr. Jacobs said with a laugh, ''but the place just opened.''

The flood relief fund, established earlier this month by Neediest Kids of All, has collected more than $114,000 from private and corporate donations. Neediest Kids of All matched the first $100,000.

Neediest Kids of All, now in its 46th year, is co-sponsored by The Enquirer and these Jacor television and radio stations: WKRC-TV (Channel 12); WWNK (94.1 FM); WEBN (102.7 FM); WOFX (92.5 FM); WCKY (550 AM); and WLW (700 AM).