A major delivery of generosity

Carroll children collect supplies to send to a Gulf Coast school ravaged by Katrina

Education Beat


In a letter to elementary school pupils in Mississippi, Kristen Sew explained how sorry she was that Hurricane Katrina damaged their school.

Kristen, 6, a second-grader at Sandymount Elementary School, told them to remember that while people can't be replaced, things can.

She and other Sandymount pupils have been working to replace some of the things lost during the hurricane for the children who attend Oak Park Elementary, a school on the Gulf Coast. Her letter will be shipped with the trailer full of supplies they have collected.

"I wanted to help the people," Kristen said.

The shipment of supplies that overflowed a four-horse trailer parked in front of Sandymount Elementary in Finksburg was expected to leave yesterday.

Items including school materials, cleaning supplies and a plastic kitchen play set were collected in a drive that started with the school's Kids Helping Kids program and expanded into the community.

Julia Platt, Oak Park's principal, said the supplies are going to help the children tremendously because so many families lost everything.

She said that although stores in the greater Biloxi-Gulfport area are slowly reopening, people have few places to shop in Ocean Springs, where the school is, because a nearby mall was washed out. Only a few boutiques and a Wal-Mart are open.

"With our economy down the way it is, we might not have what we need to get started even next year," Platt said last week. "Whatever is extra we are just saving, and we'll give it out next year. People have been so, so generous."

Andy Yount, Sandymount's guidance counselor, who has family connections to the Ocean Springs area, said the effort got started after he was approached by children wanting to help Hurricane Katrina victims.

After initial uncertainty about the logistics of collecting and transporting supplies, parents and local businesses made the drive possible, Yount said.

The Finksburg post office offered to coordinate shipping the supplies at no cost, while Louis Yeager, the father of a Sandymount second-grader, provided the trailer to hold supplies.

Yeager said that when the school is finished with the trailer, it will be used by the nonprofit organization Catastrophic Health Planners Inc. to help Katrina victims now living in Maryland as they move into new homes here.

"We didn't expect to fill the trailer, and now it's overflowing into the halls," Yount said.

Carpet Workshop donated carpet squares, Gateway Market provided cleaning supplies and Long and Foster in Finksburg allowed billboard space to advertise the drive. Some Westminster-area stores gave gift cards and office supplies.

Liberty High School also helped out by having clubs put together themed kits.

Liberty senior Brad Dodson, student government president, said students made emergency buckets and supply backpacks, as well as hygiene kits, teacher kits and fun kits with board games and stuffed animals.

"Students wanted to donate," Dodson said. "Usually when clubs fundraise, [students] don't always give because they don't know where their money is going. But they've seen all the things on TV and in the newspaper about the hurricane, and they wanted to help out."

In order to get Sandymount pupils excited about the weeklong drive, the approximately 30 third-, fourth- and fifth-graders in Kids Helping Kids worked in small groups to write and give presentations to every class.

They explained what a hurricane is, explained the nature of the catastrophe and used maps to show the location of Oak Park, Yount said.

Fifth-grader Rachel Hammond said she brought in a bunch of clothes while another fifth-grader, Chris Walsch, said he brought in colored pencils and paper.

"I think it's important to show our respect and help out because their schools got destroyed and they can't learn as well as us," Walsch said.

Platt said Oak Park staff members had to clean and remove debris from the heavily damaged school building before students returned Sept. 26.

"Right now, we have a whole wing consisting of four second-grade classrooms, the art room, a gifted classroom and a computer lab that was destroyed by a tornado," Platt said.

Until portable classrooms are set up, rooms are being shared, and Platt said they are keeping things in order as much as they can.

School administrators in both locations connected the elementary schools through speakerphones and intercom systems.

Nikki Ratti, a Finksburg-area parent who helped with the drive, said her son, Kyle, a fourth-grader, told his family at dinner all about hearing from the Mississippi school and how excited the kids down there were.

Yount said the schools plan to be in contact again after the supplies arrive.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.