Westport youth's bar mitzvah community project on a 'roll"™
The sight of a teenage boy beside a toilet paper pyramid in downtown Westport might have unnerved some residents in late October, prompting thoughts of an organized Halloween prank.
But with Halloween in the rear view mirror, Noah Pines' towering toilet paper display on Main Street outside the YMCA on Sunday evoked curiosity more than anxiety.
And that's just what the 13-year-old Coleytown Middle School student intended. Noah was soliciting donations for a Habitat for Humanity house-build in Youngstown, Ohio, where his cousin, Monica Cravens, is executive director of the local Habitat chapter. Habitat for Humanity is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing affordable housing to families in need.
Those who donated $10 or more were offered a roll of the toilet paper.
"I wanted to make it fun, make the fundraiser entertaining," Noah said. He purchased 250 rolls of paper and earmarked the money he intended to raise toward installation of a bathroom under construction. Noah did his research and found it would cost about $2,500 and he calculated the expenses per item telling prospective donors that if he "sold" five rolls of toilet paper Habitat could by a bathroom mirror; 12 rolls would purchase a vanity, 13 rolls a toilet, 40 rolls a sink, 70 rolls the tile and 80 rolls a combination bathtub and shower.
Noah raised about $1,000 Sunday, but few people left with their roll. "There were a lot of people who thought it was clever, but most people just wanted to donate money. They didn't want to carry around a roll of toilet paper while they were shopping," he said, adding that he has enough paper left over "to last for a while."
The fundraising effort was part of Noah's community service project, which he must complete before his bar mitzvah on Jan. 8 at Temple Israel in Westport. "Part of the responsibility that comes with becoming a Bar Mitzvah is to repair the world through good deeds," he said.
Noah has also appealed to his neighbors and congregants at Temple Israel, distributing a flyer that says, "Everybody needs a house and every house needs a bathroom."
"I definitely reward his creativity. He's always been a unique kid and has a philanthropic mindset," Cravens said. She hopes Noah will have a chance to visit the construction site to sign the bathroom wall before the drywall goes up "so he can feel like he is a part of this project and part of this house."
Cravens said this is not the first time Noah has contributed to her Habitat chapter.
Several years ago he showed up at her house with a bag of coins he had collected that totaled several hundred dollars.
"We're so proud of him. He not only did this as his community service project but he also worked at Long Lots School about 20 hours helping with the sports and homework after school program," said Amy Pines, Noah's mother.
Five years ago, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Noah got involved with a baked goods sale to raise money for victims. "I think most people take what we have for granted. There's a lot of other people in need. They are not as lucky as us. We need to be aware of that and help them and make sure they have what they need for a healthy lifestyle," Noah said.
Noah said he hopes to raise the full $2,500 by early January.