Since the devastating tornado ripped through West Liberty March 2, Kentucky residents have flocked to the small Morgan County town to help with cleanup efforts and to help residents get their lives back together.
Many Clark Countians and organizations were among the first to go and to send desperately needed supplies in the first hours following the tornado.
While there were many people who lost their homes to the storm, destruction wasn’t limited to residential areas, as much of downtown West Liberty also was destroyed or damaged, as were two of the town’s schools.
Seeing the damage to the schools spurred one local teacher into action to assist the teachers and students at the two damaged schools.
Shearer Elementary School teacher Michelle Hamblin said from watching the news coverage of the storm damage she knew the teachers lost most, if not all, of their supplies for their classrooms, so she thought it would be a good idea to solicit donations of schools supplies to replace them.
After talking it over with Clark County Public Schools Superintendent Elaine Farris, Hamblin organized a Pack the Bus campaign to gather schools supplies.
“After talking to Superintendent Farris and getting her support for the idea, I contacted Clark County Coroner Robert Gayheart, who has taken several loads of items to Morgan County, to see what we needed to do and how best to organize the collection,” Hamblin said. “After that I contacted Mayor Ed Burtner and County Judge-Executive Henry Branham who helped get the word out about the bus, and I talked to teachers at some of the other schools who were excited about the idea and also wanted to help.”
Hamblin created a list of needed supplies which was sent to all the schools and posted on district’s website. The list was also distributed by Burtner and Branham through their offices.
Items on the list include:
— pencils and pens
— wide-ruled notebooks
— loose-leaf paper
— copy paper
— dry-erase markers
— boxed drinks for kids
— fruit cups
— small non-perishable snack items
In the week since the list went out, she’s received a huge response from teachers across the district and from many others in the community, Hamblin said, especially from teachers at Shearer, many of whom vividly remember what it was like to lose a school when Shearer Elementary burned in 1998.
The first group of items will be delivered to Morgan County at the end of the week by Hamblin and several other teachers.
Hamblin said she wanted to deliver the items by school bus because it was a recognizable symbol of a community.
“School buses are part of every community and something that everyone sees and I felt like it would be a warm embrace because there is just something about a bus that says home,” Hamblin said. “We’re going to go over and talk to the teachers and then make another list with specific items that they need and then take another load of supplies to them at a later date.”
Anyone who wants to participate in the “Pack a Bus” project can still do so. Items can be dropped off at any Clark County School and at the Calvary Christian School. Donated items need to be put in individual boxes that are labeled with a list of contents and taped shut.
Other individuals or groups wanting to help in West Liberty or other tornado stricken areas of the state have been asked to contact people such as Gayhart, who have already been involved with the effort, to see what particular items or type of assistance is needed before sending things to the areas.
Contact Bob Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.