As students straggle back to storm-ravaged PSMS 114 in Belle Harbor, N.Y., this week, theyll find 60 boxes of schools supplies from Charlotte waiting.
The supplies are a gift from educators, parents and students in about 20 of Charlotte-Mecklenburgs highest-poverty schools schools that are often on the receiving end of supply drives.
Children at Idlewild Elementary, where the collection began, saw the scenes of destruction after high-tide waves from Superstorm Sandy hammered coastal New York in October. Principal Jane Collins and cafeteria worker Dolores Romas, who has family in the area, hatched the plan and found a school in need.
Idlewild is not a very wealthy school, Collins said.
But its a giving school, said Romas, who has worked there 18 years and served 23 years on the PTA.
Relatives of Romas suggested the flood-damaged school, whose students, kindergartners through eighth-graders, were sent to three other schools until the building could be repaired. Many students, whose homes were flooded or burned, scattered even farther as their families found places to live.
Of course, Collins couldnt just call the school to ask about helping. She had to track down a cellphone number for a PTA leader, who said supplies would be welcome after floodwaters washed through everything that was stored at school.
When Collins saw how enthusiastically her faculty and families brought in paper, pens, folders, backpacks and other classroom needs, she emailed the other principals in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools central elementary zone to ask whether they wanted to join. About half did.
Bear in mind that every school in that zone has a poverty level of 75 percent or higher, with many topping 90 percent.
As the other schools made dropoffs, the Idlewild conference room filled. Eventually, there were 60 boxes ready to ship when the New York school reopened.
A local company agreed to deliver the load of supplies at no charge.
The supplies arrived last week. PSMS 114 Principal Stephen Grill said his staff would unpack the two pallets of boxes over the weekend.
They will go to good use, Grill said Friday.
Just more than half his students have returned; the others remain scattered as families figure out whether and when they can return to their homes.
We are rebuilding, Grill said. Well be back as strong as we were, if not stronger.
And the children of Idlewild, many of whom have lived through their own hard times, know theyve lent a hand.
Its a lesson we want to teach our children, Collins said.