Falmouth schools respond after destructive hurricanes

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FALMOUTH — After watching the destructive toll of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida, students and staff in Falmouth schools wanted to do something to help.

So they’ve picked a charity called ShelterBox to be the beneficiary of current and future fundraising efforts.

According to its website, ShelterBox is a global organization that provides direct assistance to those trying to rebuild after a disaster. Their boxes and kits contain family-size tents, as well as other tools to aid in reconstruction.

Holly MacEwan, the service learning coordinator for the Falmouth School Department, said, “Many students, staff members and parents expressed interest in wanting to assist in (hurricane) relief efforts.”

She said the schools chose to raise money because asking for items such as clothing, food or medical supplies often creates “additional challenges regarding sorting, storage” and transportation, while “monetary donations are the most helpful.”

“Engaging in activities to support the recovery efforts helps students of all ages understand their ability to make meaningful contributions to the lives of others,” MacEwan said about the importance of the school community coming together to assist in hurricane recovery efforts.

“We all experience a range of emotions after a disaster and … opportunities to help in the recovery efforts can help alleviate a sense of helplessness that might otherwise be felt,” she added.

In addition, MacEwan said, “‘Navigating Creative Pathways to Courageous, Compassionate, and Fulfilling Lives’ is the mission statement for our schools, (and) we help to further that goal by supporting our southern neighbors in a meaningful and productive way.”

She said in the days following Hurricane Harvey, which struck southeast Texas Aug. 25, “a student leader of the Falmouth High School Service Club and other Falmouth school leaders reviewed and discussed a variety of organizations working on relief efforts.”

After further discussion on “how we could best assist victims of the recent natural disasters,” MacEwan said ShelterBox emerged as the preferred beneficiary.

She said school leaders also felt it would be important to include the whole town in the fundraising effort, which is why Peter Badalament, the new principal at Falmouth High School, sent a letter to parents.

The letter was also posted on the schools’ Facebook page. The letter said, “There are many great suggestions out there and an incredible amount of need for assistance. (We want) to give you the opportunity to work together as a community.”

Badalament said students at the middle school have already begun planning a Give-a-Thon and the “FHS and FES communities will be planning events in the near future.”

In addition to fundraising, he said the high school will also likely send teams to work with Habitat for Humanity as the organization begins helping people in the disaster zones rebuild their homes.

MacEwan said what’s important to remember is, “rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster continue for many years after the event.”

In fact, she said, for the past nine years Falmouth High School has sent teams of students and faculty to Mississippi to continue assisting those affected by Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast in 2005.

“Students who have been part of those teams are amazed by how profoundly moved members of that community have been by our continued support and continued recognition,” MacEwan said.

“That these residents have not been forgotten has made a meaningful difference in both our students’ lives, as well those in the (affected) communities. Students are struck by how much was lost, but also by how deeply the community bonded after coming through tragedy together.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.