A mural hanging on the wall in the South Columbia Elementary School foyer proclaims a message: "Making the World a Better Place."
South Columbia Elementary fourth-grade teacher Carol Thomas (right) contacted a school in Punta Gorda, Fla., that was damaged by Hurricane Charley. She arranged to collect school supplies through donations at South Columbia to send to the damaged school. Two of her top collectors, Karley Bragg (from left) and Billy Adams, display some of the items collected.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
It's a goal that now has students, teachers and staff members at the school working together to help out a school in Florida they recently adopted in the wake of Hurricane Charley.
"We do a lot of character building," said Carol Thomas, a fourth grade teacher at South Columbia Elementary, who coordinated a school supply drive for the students of East Elementary School in Punta Gorda, Fla.
The public also is now being asked to pitch in school supplies at South Columbia Elementary by Friday.
On Aug. 13, Hurricane Charley ripped through west-Central Florida, causing severe damage to several homes, businesses and schools. Students who attended East Elementary lost their facility, which was destroyed during the storm. Now, more than 500 students from that school must attend and share classrooms with students at Sallie Jones Elementary, also in Punta Gorda.
"This was a way to put our character words into action and let children have a way to show their generosity, caring and responsibility," Thomas said. "I really feel it's something we should all be doing. If we're not going to help each other, then who will?"
Thomas said she knew what to do to organize such a drive because she was involved in one for South Carolina victims when Hurricane Hugo hit in 1989.
"First I did some research on the Internet, and then I called the board of education (in Charlotte County) and they told me everything (at East Elementary) was destroyed," Thomas said. "They said they really needed school supplies."
Thomas said East Elementary was the first school she was able to contact. "By working with one school I thought (there) would be a better response with (support)," she said.
Billy Adams, 9, a South Columbia fourth grader, said he already had an abundance of supplies at home.
"It was easy to share," he said. "I donated three stacks of paper, five boxes of crayons and four packs of pencils."
Karley Bragg, 10, another fourth grader, said she donated supplies for a different reason.
"Me and my mom have friends in Florida," she said. "We know a lot of people whose houses got messed up," she said.
South Columbia Principal Susan Gilbert said that so far the response has been wonderful.
"The school really has been so supportive and donated a lot of supplies," she said. "This is truly a learning experience. It's activities like this that children won't forget. Even as adults they'll say, 'Remember what we did for the kids in Florida."'
Since Gilbert and Thomas are both members of Wesley United Methodist Church, they said, a Club Car tractor trailer, which is already carrying donated items to the Hurricane Charley victims in Florida, will also travel an extra 100 miles to Punta Gorda to carry the donated school supplies to East Elementary students.
Donated school supplies can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today through Friday at South Columbia Elementary, located at 325 McCormick Road. For more information, call 863-3220.
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