Hurricane of relief

Ashley Smith · Wednesday, September 27, 2017
West Liberty students and staff are sending supplies over a thousand miles to aid survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas.

Hurricane Harvey decimated many Texas communities last month, including the Aldine Independent School District. The district spans 111 square miles in northern Harris County, TX and has nearly 70,000 enrolled students.

The West Liberty FFA program is partnering with WLHS graduates Katie Meyers and Meredith Nichols, who are currently student teaching in Aldine ISD. 

During West Liberty homecoming week, the FFA officer team helped create a district-wide fundraiser, said FFA president Lauren Aird. Elementary school principal Jenni Laughlin organized a "penny war" in her building, where students brought in loose change to donate to the fundraising effort.

Meanwhile, the high school held both a penny war and a drive to collect school supplies and personal hygiene items for the families of Aldine. Notebooks, folders, pencils, shampoo, soap and first aid supplies are all on the list of needed items.

"The FFA officers wanted to make a specific impact and know exactly where their money was going," said FFA supervisor Zach Morris.

Money raised from the penny wars will be used to purchase additional supplies and send them to Texas. "This is to insure the fundraiser is providing relief directly to the kids," said Aird.

According to information compiled by the FFA students, the ethnic composition of Aldine ISD includes over 70% Hispanic students and 25% African American students. Nearly 90 percent of the families in the district are considered economically disadvantaged.

"The area of Aldine is low-income and students face many challenges," said Aird. "Being displaced from their homes after the hurricane was one major issue."

According to Aird and Morris, the fundraiser has been a huge success so far. 

"The community, student and staff support has been tremendous," said Aird. "Brookelyn Harned and the First Church United helped raise over $100 for the coin drive, and students have contributed with donations and coins." 

Many teachers and office staff members helped with the coin drive as well, she said.

Originally, the penny drives and supply collection were scheduled to last until Friday, Sept. 22, but as momentum for the service projects build, the FFA officers decided to extend the project for a second week.

"The first week really got the ball rolling, and this week it is much higher due to the students being competitive to win the coin drive," said Aird.

"As Puerto Rico was recently hit by a devastating hurricane, we decided as a chapter to send money to their relief as well," she added.

FFA Officers helping to organize the fundraising effort include Aird, Elias Rocha, Emma Martin, Parker Werling, Haylee Lehman, Austyn Crees, Brent Meyers and Tatum Dickey, said Morris. 

Community members who wish to make a donation can bring them to the West Liberty High School office, or contact West Liberty FFA directly at zmorris@wl.k12.ia.us.
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