In the flood-ravaged areas surrounding Houston, the devastation has touched every aspect of life. Thousands and thousands of people lost their homes, businesses and possessions.
But as the waters recede and the rebuilding process starts, communities are finding that their schools are in ruins.
To help these children and the school communities around them regain their footing, Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood is stepping up. Staff, students and families have been donating books, pencils, notebooks and other supplies to help restock schools in Katy, Texas.
People have also been giving gift cards to places such as Amazon and Walmart so that teachers can put their classrooms back together.
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A pair of Southwest teachers are planning to truck all of the donations to Katy later next week.
“We’re really excited to help,” said Becky Habig, a fifth-grade teacher at Southwest. “We feel like it’s time to give back. It just makes you feel good. You can’t be there to get your feet wet, but you can help in other ways.”
For Habig, the school supply drive grew out of a personal connection to tragedy unfolding in Texas. Her niece lives in Katy, and as the floodwaters rose, they were in constant contact.
When the immediate danger was past, one of their conversations turned to how to help. Habig had been involved with a Southwest effort to resupply schools following Hurricane Katrina, and thought something similar could help Katy.
Her niece connected her to a teacher friend in Katy.
“Evidently, five of their schools were severely damaged. They had prepared, but they didn’t think it was going to be as bad as it was,” Habig said. “A lot of what they needed were shelves and books. They had started school already, so all of the kids’ school supplies were there.”
Habig and another fifth-grade teacher, Tracy Havens, discussed collecting the items the schools needed this past week. Their idea quickly picked up traction among students, parents and other staff members. Flyers were sent home to parents, and other Greenwood schools helped with donations as well.
Part of the motivation stemmed from the response Southwest received after a tragedy of their own, Habig said. After Jennifer Longworth, a teacher at Southwest, died in the explosion in the Richmond Hill neighborhood in 2012, others came together to support their school community.
“Schools from all over the country reached out to us, so we were on the receiving end of a lot of good people,” Habig said.
Southwest organizers are only focused on school supplies and gift cards, as well as monetary donations at this time, Habig said. The Katy schools have been asking for different items, such as clothing and water, from others wishing to help. What they need from Southwest is school supplies.
Already, the response has exceeded expectations, Habig said.
By Sept. 7 or 8, Havens and Habig, as well as their husbands, are going to take all of donated items to Katy. The generosity of the community is forcing them to reassess their plans.
“If everyone brings in the stuff that people say they’re going to, we’re going to need a bigger truck,” Habig said. “But that’s a good problem to have.”
How to help
Southwest Elementary School is collecting any school supplies, as well as gift cards to Amazon and Walmart, to aid damaged schools in Katy, Texas.
Donations can be made at boxes set up at Southwest Elementary School, 619 W. Smith Valley Road, Greenwood. People can also e-mail Becky Habig, firstname.lastname@example.org, to arrange to pick up donations.