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Published in Print: September 14, 2005, as Grassroots Efforts Aim To Aid Storm Survivors

Grassroots Efforts Aim to Aid Storm Survivors

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Students, parents, and educators are mobilizing to collect money and supplies for those affected by Hurricane Katrina. Here are snapshots of some of those projects.

Project Backpack

Maryland: Thousands of backpacks loaded with school supplies were piled in bags on a high school stage in Bethesda, Md., last week, destined for children who had fled New Orleans to the Houston Astrodome.

A groundswell of volunteers had turned the idea born less than a week earlier around the family dinner table of Steve Kantor. The local business man hoped to collect 1,000 backpacks, based on the size his garage. Instead, he's taken in more than 5,000 backpacks, and still counting.

A student volunteer at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., tosses one of thousands of backpacks filled with supplies for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
A student volunteer at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md., tosses one of thousands of backpacks filled with supplies for students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
—Andrew Trotter/Education Week

“There are a lot of rich people around here,” Mr. Kantor said of the affluent Washington suburb. “After they write a check, they still want to do something.”

By midweek, plastic garbage bags filled with backpacks were stacked five deep on the stage of Walt Whitman High School, a collection site offered by Principal Alan Goodwin. Jackie, the eldest of Mr. Kantor’s three daughters, is a freshman at the public school, which is part of Maryland’s Montgomery County district.

Sara Selber, a Houston volunteer who said she was helping coordinate philanthropy for the Houston Independent School District, said in an interview that all the back-packs from Bethesda were needed—if not in Houston, then in other districts receiving students forced from their homes by Hurricane Katrina. “Probably some are going to go to Baton Rouge,” she said.

Finding a way to transport the backpacks was a challenge. But after much searching by Mr. Kantor and other volunteers, UPS Air Cargo and a trucking company agreed to ship them free to Houston and Baton Rouge.

The first 20 backpacks didn’t have to go far at all: A volunteer delivered them by minivan to Washington, where the District of Columbia Armory is the new home to a number of New Orleans evacuees.

—Andrew Trotter


Tubs of Love

Georgia: At Ford Elementary School in Acworth, Ga., pupils are collecting large plastic containers that they call “Tubs of Love,” filled with first-aid supplies, nonperishable food, diapers, trinkets such as hair bows, and handwritten notes from the students.

Children in the school’s student-run Community Outreach Committee decided to launch the Tubs of Love campaign after learning that a family at the school had relatives in Mississippi who lost their homes during the hurricane. Rather than send financial contributions, the students opted for the personalized care packages, which have been assembled and decorated by students in every grade at the 995-pupil K-5 school.

A tractor-trailer truck, donated by a parent who works for a trucking company, was scheduled to deliver the goods to Long Beach, Miss., this week. As of late last week, the truck was three-quarters full. The school’s principal, Kristy Mason, expects the truck to be full by the time it leaves Acworth.

In addition, the school has sent school supplies and backpacks to area districts that have accepted evacuees.

—Jessica L. Tonn


Beads 4 Needs

Florida: “What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of New Orleans?” asked Dave Grad, the student-government adviser and athletic director at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., when describing how he decided to start selling Mardi Gras beads as a fund-raiser at his school.

The “Beads 4 Needs” effort, which had raised over $2,300 by late last week, will support the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Students are selling strands of the colored beads at the 3,000-student school, and teachers are selling them in the community. The asking price is $2 per necklace, but some community members have chosen to donate up to $20 for a single strand, Mr. Grad said.

Though Mr. Grad started with 3,500 necklaces, he plans to keep ordering beads to sell indefinitely. He has also designed and ordered 300 “Douglas Eagles Hurricane Relief Team” T-shirts, which he will start selling at the school this week.

Visit Beads 4 Needs campaign for more information.

—JLT

Vol. 25, Issue 3, Page 24

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Correction: 
The item titled "Beads 4 Needs" below incorrectly identified the intended recipients of the “Beads 4 Needs” program. Money raised will go to displaced students and storm-damaged schools. The item should have made clear that the nonprofit group was started by Jaemi Levine of Coral Springs, Fla., and her teenage daughters, and that schools and universities in Florida, Indiana, and Ohio are taking part in the effort.

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