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Published on October 16th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Flood relief efforts in District Five continue as focus turns to recovery

Pictured: Volunteers, staff and students from Chapin High, Dutch Fork High, Irmo High and other District Five schools hold signs, thanking the Neenah, Wisconsin community for donations.

COLUMBIA – Relief efforts in Lexington-Richland School District Five continued as students and staff returned to school and state officials turned their focus to recovery in the wake of historic flooding in South Carolina this month.

Donations continued to pour in – even from as far as Neenah, Wisconsin, where two 10-year-old students organized a relief drive to help flood victims. On Oct. 14, a semi-truck hauling bottled water, cleaning supplies and other flood relief items arrived at Leaphart Elementary School in Columbia to a cheering crowd of District Five students and volunteers ready to unload the donations.

“It’s amazing that students in Neenah Wisconsin, so far removed physically from what’s happened in South Carolina, would reach out across the country to help others,” said Kelly Brown, principal of Leaphart Elementary School. “It says wonderful things about the students there. It says wonderful things about our students here, who volunteered to unload the items…and it just teaches all the students an important lesson that you do play a role in fixing real-world problems.”

Horace Mann Middle School fifth grade students Josie Fisher and Rachel Frank spearheaded the “Flood the Truck” donation drive in Neenah, Wisconsin with the support of their teacher Tricia Retzlaff. The effort was a part of a class “Passion Project” for the two students, who said they just wanted to help.

“We wanted to do this project to help the people in South Carolina because they’re having a really bad time with all the flooding that’s gone on,” said Fisher, who Skyped with students in District Five after the truck was unloaded.

“We just felt like it was the right thing to do,” Frank added.

Students and families in the Neenah community collected a truckload of bottled water, hand sanitizer, work gloves, rubber gloves, boxes and other items. The two Neenah students and their teacher also contacted N&M Transfer Company, getting the trucking business to deliver the items at no cost.

“I have cried tears of joy many times since the conception of the Flood the Truck idea,” said Retzlaff, who teaches Fisher and Frank. “The lessons learned with Passion Projects like this are real world. This can’t be learned in a book.”

Other flood relief efforts throughout the district also continued in the aftermath of the flood, as district officials began to assess the number of students and families affected in the area. The district already has identified nearly 130 families in need of assistance, and that number is expected to increase, said Jennifer Felkel, coordinator of parenting and social work for the district.

“The need is great and the response from the community has been great,” she said. “We know that as students return to school, we will get reports of even more families in need of assistance. This event has been devastating for those affected, but if there’s a silver lining in all of this…we’ve seen and heard so many stories of students and people all over who care, want to help and take action to help their neighbors. The overwhelming feeling is that we will get through this together.”

At Nursery Road Elementary, a flood relief drive continued and a community meeting was held Oct. 15 for residents of the hard-hit Coldstream neighborhood near the District Five school.

“We have had donations of food, clothing, furniture, appliances…even school supplies for our students. But beyond that, we’ve had teachers and whole communities visit homes and help families in need,” said Nursery Road Elementary Principal Love Ligons. “Water, supplies and even money are awesome in a family’s time of need. But when people are willing to roll up their sleeves and literally get in the mud to help others, you know you have something very special in your community. Nursery Road will be closer as a school, as a team, and as a community following the efforts shown recently. We have seen a true school family.”

Donations also continued to pour into the District Five-Flood Victims Fund, which had already collected more than $15,000 within a week of its creation. Contributions can be made online at www.district5foundation.org, by clicking the GIVE icon and making the donation in honor of “Flood Victims.” Donations are also being accepted by mail to the District Five Foundation at 1020 Dutch Fork Road, Irmo, SC 29063.

“We know that the recovery efforts will continue for some time, and we’re so grateful for all that have given and all that will give,” said District Five Foundation President Paula Hite. “Many children and families will still need our help in the days and weeks ahead.  We must continue to show our support for our students and families in need.”

 

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