SARASOTA, Fla. — A Florida teacher whose classroom books went missing after her school was used as a hurricane shelter during Hurricane Irma has received hundreds of donated books and cash to buy even more.

The Herald-Tribune reports eighth grade language arts teacher Danielle Forbes was upset when she walked into her school after the hurricane and found the 200 books on her shelves missing.

Nearly 200 books that had filled her two connected classrooms at Brookside Middle School in Sarasota were simply gone, the shelves practically empty. Staff members who were present during Irma told Forbes that two families had stayed in her classrooms, one of which had just moved to Florida the week of the hurricane. They were so frightened by the impending storm that they took all the books off the shelves for fear that they could fly around the room during the height of the hurricane. Somehow, in all the confusion, Forbes concluded, the books went missing.

“I couldn’t believe the books were gone, because these were for my students,” Forbes said. “They love these books … and I was so upset for them. I made this room just for them.”

So Forbes did what most anyone would do these days, and posted her experience on Facebook. She shared various photos of her classroom, bookshelves bare, with an anxious message.

“Hundreds of novels were taken from my classroom, along with half of my potted plants. I can move the furniture all back into place. But it will take me YEARS to be able to afford to replace those books,” Forbes wrote about a week after Irma hit the state. “I made my room for my students. So many of them don’t go home to a place that feels like home. This was their space to just feel like they belong for a little bit.”

Shortly after she posted the status, two of Forbes’ friends from her middle school years reached out and asked if they could re-publish the post. Within days, their respective statuses, which did ask for donations, had more than 300 shares on Facebook collectively. At that point, boxes of books started pouring in.

“The crazy thing was, I never asked for a single book,” Forbes said, still overwhelmed by the turn of events. “I didn’t intend for this to get out. I really started the message off with, ‘I’m just trying to figure out how to pray right now, because why does this happen?'”

Now, Forbes’ class has received donations of more than 560 novels. A Facebook fundraiser has garnered almost $600 for Forbes to buy more books. The books have come from as far as California, and one school in Georgia sent a box of 50 books as part of a class project. Two authors even sent Forbes’ class a box of their own books.

The students have a sort of ritual around the donations. Whenever Forbes gets a new box, they crowd around it during class and take out the books one by one.

“I like the surprise when you open a box,” said 13-year-old Jaynie Johnson. “It’s kind of like a Christmas present.”


Information from: Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune, http://www.heraldtribune.com