When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in late August, people at Forest Hills School in northwestern Maine wanted to know how their friends 1,800 miles away in Louisiana had fared.
Educators and students from the public school located in Jackman, Maine, had met a group from the 2,400-student East Feliciana Parish schools in Louisiana at a conference sponsored by the national Rural School and Community Trust in July.
They wanted to offer their help, but soon learned that the East Feliciana schools had sustained relatively minor damage from the storm, said Nancy Paradise, the administrative assistant to the superintendent of Forest Hills, a one-school, K-12 district of about 188 students.
East Feliciana officials then helped the Maine group find a neighboring school system that had been hit hard.
The 3,000-student Bogalusa, La., school district—located in Washington Parish, about 70 miles north of New Orleans—suffered severe damage to five of its 10 schools, Bogalusa Superintendent Jerry O. Payne said.
The Maine townspeople decided to send a flatbed truck of lumber to help patch up the Bogalusa schools.
A restaurant owner in Jackman, who serves on a school-community leadership council, teamed with local logging, sawmill, and trucking companies to arrange a lumber donation worth about $20,000. Forest Hills middle-grades students also raised about $2,200 in cash to donate to Bogalusa, Ms. Paradise said.
Forest Hills School then held a send-off party and parade for the lumber truck—featuring the signatures and best wishes of many students—as it departed on Oct. 3.
The truck arrived in Bogalusa the morning of Oct. 10. About 100 students and numerous school employees greeted the truck, Mr. Payne said.
He called the lumber delivery “a breath of life to us, because we had been reeling.”
The lumber already has helped repair district offices in Bogalusa, Mr. Payne said. Now, there’s talk of sending local students to Maine for a visit, and of forging other partnerships.
“The citizens up in Jackman will always be our friends for life,” Mr. Payne said.
A version of this article appeared in the October 19, 2005 edition of Education Week