It’s been a month since Tropical Storm Irene swept through the Capital District, but there are several communities that are still struggling to pick up the pieces.
That is why the South Colonie Central School District, the Village of Colonie and other area school districts are getting together to help out families in the Middleburgh and Schoharie school districts, where many families have lost almost everything they have.
The idea came about at a recent board of education meeting when board member Brian Casey noted that the district was fortunate enough to weather the storm mostly unscathed and asked what could be done to help others not so lucky.
Casey said a supply drive would be a lesson in character education for the students, showing them how they can help a neighbor. Superintendent Jon Buhner made a call to the Schoharie Central School District to see what was needed. He learned that what residents needed the most were cleaning supplies, personal care item and baby care products.
“Jon called me and said, ‘We did it for people in Haiti, we did it for people outside of the country, let’s do it for our own,’” Casey said. “Basically, we don’t want kids bringing in chemicals like Clorox and spray cleaners. What we’re looking for is rubber gloves, mops, paper towels, face masks, personal care items like soap and deodorant.”
Buhner said South Colonie is coordinating with other school districts and seeing what Schoharie will need in terms of desks and chairs at Middleburgh Central School District. He said the secondary school had taken quite a hit during the storm. He said the district will provide a spreadsheet to the various districts as to what they’ll need.
“We’re waiting on them to see what they need.” Buhner said. “They’re really busy right now and have a number of priorities that need to be taken care of”.
The collection of supplies began on Monday, Sept. 19, and will go until Sept. 30. S. Collection sites are at all eight school buildings, the bus garage and the district office, and the Village of Colonie will be using the family recreation center as a site as well.
Buhner said he is proud of all the students, student groups, staff and parents for getting involved with this and other charity events, such as the annual Toys for Tots collection, the Stuff the Bus campaign and the help they provided for earthquake victims in Haiti.
“When these things occur, we try to involve our students,” he said. “Not just our clubs, but also the general population of kids. I’m proud of our community. Everyone tries to do what they can. It might be as simple as bringing in one container of paper towels, canned vegetables or powdered milk.”
Casey is confident the district community will come together to support neighboring school districts, and he can’t believe what many experienced during the storms.
“We had some tree limbs down and some power outages, but compared to them, we fared well,” he said. “I have a hard time fathoming losing everything I own except what’s on my back. It’s heart-wrenching and devastating.”
Village of Colonie Mayor Frank Leak said he believes if the tables were turned, the other communities would be the ones lending a helping hand. He said he visited the area on Sunday, Sept. 18, and couldn’t believe the destruction.
“If this is one way we can help, then this is what we can do,” he said. “Anything more that we can do, we will do. We want to bring a tractor-trailer full of stuff down.”