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By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
By Kaylen Auer
PBN Web Editor
(Updated, Dec. 18, 9:47 a.m.)
PROVIDENCE – Hasbro Inc. and Brown University will each donate $25,000 to make up for the theft of $50,000 worth of technology from Sophia Academy and to fund the installation of new security equipment at the school.
Head of School Gigi DiBello told Providence Business News that the independent girls’ middle school, which relies on donations to offer affordable tuition to low-income families, has received an outpouring of support from existing donors, local businesses and members of the community since the break-in occurred over the weekend.
“People have been enormously generous,” said DiBello, adding that the donations given in support of Sophia Academy since news of the theft on Monday have exceeded the $50,000 lost.
St. Edward’s Church, the school’s landlord, provided a cash donation to purchase new Christmas gifts for the students, to replace the 61 stolen gift bags that had been prepared for each student through the Gregg’s Restaurant Giving Tree donation drive. Save The Bay has offered to arrange a field trip for the Sophia Academy students; Fidelity Investments offered to replace some of the stolen computers; and other donors have provided gifts of as much as $5,000 or $10,000, DiBello said.
Bank Rhode Island announced Tuesday that it would contribute a $5,000 charitable grant to the school.
“The moment we heard about what happened at Sophia Academy, we knew we needed to do something to help the school and its students,” said Mark J. Meiklejohn, president and CEO of Bank Rhode Island. “It’s extremely disappointing that anyone would do this, especially during the holiday season, but I have no doubt the community will rally together and make sure the school has everything they need to move forward with classes following the holiday break.”
In the light of the large donations from Hasbro and Brown University, Sophia Academy will return excess donations upon request, DiBello said, but the school can always use additional donations to fund educational opportunities for its students.
The $50,000 from Hasbro and Brown will go toward replacing the 50 laptop computers, 19 Kindle Fire tablets, seven LCD projectors, three iMac computers and an iPad that were stolen from the school.
“They do such great work for the girls, and especially during the holidays and with everything the community did to make Christmas presents for the girls, and to have all of that stolen plus the equipment, it’s just heartbreaking,” said Karen Davis, vice president of community relations for Hasbro. “I’m really happy that we were able to help them replace some of the supplies that were stolen or damaged.”
In addition to replacing the stolen technology, DiBello said, Sophia Academy hopes to install new security measures at its current location at 979 Branch Ave., as well as the 582 Elmwood Ave. location where the school will relocate in February.
The school’s current security system monitors the perimeter of the building but not every entryway, DiBello said, allowing the thieves to gain access through two unsecured doors.
“At Brown, we have long been inspired by the substantial and important work that the Sophia Academy undertakes to advance opportunities for talented middle school girls,” said Brown University President Christina H. Paxson. “When we learned of the deeply troubling act of vandalism and theft, we wanted to offer support to this very special institution, and to the dedicated team of educators who strive, every day, to provide access to quality teaching and learning opportunities for the Sophia students.”
In August, Brown University awarded Sophia University a $10,000 grant in support of the school’s Girl Tech - Technology in Action program.
“I want to say thank you to everybody, and let folks know that if they are still interested in donating or learning more about us, to please visit our website,” DiBello said. She added that the gifts have helped allay the confused and angry emotions of many students after hearing news of the break-in on Monday.
“What a difference 24 hours makes,” DiBello said.
For more information about Sophia Academy, visit www.sophia-academy.org.