Monday, December 22, 2008

Local School Reaches Out To Galveston

Betty Massey, Executive Director of The Mary Moody Northen Endowment, sent me this story today. The MMNE owns and operates Mountain Lake and is located in Galveston, TX.

When Terri Robertson challenged her Virginia middle school to get involved in a civic project this year, she hardly imagined it would have her sliding through a Texas snowstorm in a U-Haul truck.

But that's what the principal of Ben Franklin Middle School in Rocky Mount, Virginia, and her husband did, driving to Galveston in a truck loaded with nearly 600 Christmas gifts for the students and faculty at Central Middle School.

It all began innocently enough, when Robertson asked her faculty to inspire students to take on a civic project to teach them more than the three Rs.

When she saw Hurricane Ike rise out of the Gulf of Mexico September 13, she knew her school had a mission.

"I went online and looked at Galveston, at the damage from the storm and then schools," she said. "Central Middle School caught my attention because its students seemed so similar to ours back home. We're a bigger school, 1,700 students, but our kids share so many things in common."

Robertson's first step was to contact Central Principal Connie Herbert and ask what would help most.

"It started out small, just our immediate needs," said Herbert. "We needed copy paper, for example. Mrs. Robertson sent boxes and boxes. We mentioned basic school supplies and equipment, pencils, paper, notepads and the like. She sent a trailed loaded with computers, phones, coffee pots, towels, school supplies, and cases of bottled water."

The the kids in Rocky Mount got involved. First they set personal, individually addressed Thanksgiving cards to every student and teacher.

Then they got their hands on 560 cereal boxes, filled them with gifts and wrapped each with care...most with a personal note, best wishes, hopes for recovery. There were contests to see who could make the most special package, and the packages reflected the personalities of the students who wrapped them.

"We all wanted to reach out to Galveston, to connect," Robertson said. "That's when my husband Mike and I decided to rent a truck and bring the gifts down here ourselves."

Three days, 1,250 miles and an uncommon snowstorm later, they arrived in Galveston and delivered their sleighful of kindness at Weis Middle School, where Central's students have been sharing space since the hurricane.

"It came on an important day," Herbert said. "It was the day we read in the paper that Central wouldn't be opening for a long while, maybe not until next year, and we all needed a boost. We love our school, we love each other, and this was just what we needed that day."

Galveston did her best to return the Robertson's kindness. There were tickets to museums, a comfortable room at the San Luis Hotel, a christmas party with the Central and Weis faculties.

Betty Massey, executive director of Galvestons, Mary Moody Northen Endowment, said everyone she contacted for help responded generously.

"Paul Schultz at the San Luis was a wonderful host," she said, "and the Robertsons really appreciated it- they said the San Luis was one of the finest hotels they'd ever stayed in, and hoped they could return on vacation. The Galveston Historical Foundation hosted them at their museums, everyone pitched in to help show our gratitude for such an incredible gift."

"We all care so much for our children," she said, "and we're overwhelmed that someone from so far away could do so much. It makes you wonder what we can do ourselves, right here at home."