Students gather in the gymnasium at Hampton Elementary School, with supplies they collected as a part of the school's Hornet Hope for Haiti Program, to send relief to disaster-stricken Haiti.
By Johnny Jackson
Truckloads of aid and money are being shipped to Haiti this month, as a result of charitable efforts at eight local school communities, who gave in spite of harsh economic times.
The Luella school cluster, an eight-school district within the Henry County School System, pooled efforts last month to raise money and collect supplies for the American Red Cross. The Red Cross has continued efforts to send relief to the island nation of Haiti, which was devastated by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake on Jan. 12.
Organizers of the community-wide effort said the school cluster had raised $2,866, at last count, and untold amounts of non-perishable food items, clothes and supplies.
Thousands of students and educators in the Locust Grove-Hampton area took part in food-and-supply collections and penny drives at schools, including Bethlehem Elementary, Hampton Elementary, Luella Elementary, Mt. Carmel Elementary, Rocky Creek Elementary, Hampton Middle, Luella Middle, and Luella High.
"Yes, we have the financial crunches in the state of Georgia, but we enjoy supporting community," said Mary Watkins, physical education teacher at Hampton Elementary. "We were very pleased with our parents and partners in education."
Watkins helped organize the Hornet Hope for Haiti Program, Hampton's school-level efforts done in conjunction with the school's SAGE (Special Activities in Gifted Education) Program and the Phyllis Hatcher Ministries, Inc., Food Pantry in McDonough.
"The purpose of this was to teach our kids how to help give back through donations," Watkins said. "As we say, 'We have real heart,' and we go that extra mile. Our students believe in giving a helping hand, and we encourage them to do their very best."
They were able to collect a box-truck load of clothes, supplies, and non-perishable foods, presently en route to Haiti. At the same time, she added, the school was able to raise money for the American Heart Association's annual "Jump Rope for Heart" Program, with the total at $3,200, and counting.
"We're trying to be positive role models for our community in helping different worthy causes," Watkins said.
The job of rebuilding Haiti will likely be long and exhaustive, said Carolyn Flemister-Bell, principal at Hampton Middle. "Because of all the things that have happened in Haiti, relief efforts will probably be going on for a while," she said. "They were already having a hard time before the earthquake. So, we as a cluster wanted to show our support for relief in Haiti."
Flemister-Bell said the reality of the Jan. 12 disaster became a reality for some at her school, fairly quickly. "We actually have some students who came here from Haiti, after the earthquake," she said.
Various organizations at Hampton Middle raised funds, like its Junior BETA Club and student council. Individuals students also had the opportunity to give through the school's 50-cent winter sports pep rally on Jan. 28, and penny drives held throughout the month of February.
"We're just hoping that we can make a difference," said Flemister-Bell.
The school cluster has plans to host an event later this month, thanking those who supported the relief efforts. She said those interested in making donations now, should contact their nearest school.