by Joanne and Jim Dufour
Katrina hit the schools in Slidell, Louisiana, with a 15 foot tidal wave and left buildings, students, faculty, administration, staff and families seriously impacted.
But thanks to the efforts of our WSPCA members and friends, two schools are much better off than before.
Last Christmas, at our WSPCA party, 67 books and cash were donated to kick-start the effort of recreating a library for the Slidell Pathways School, a middle school in St Tammany Parish for special students. As soon as the books arrived in early January, grateful principal Jackie Landry wrote to share with us what it had meant to be able to put a book into the hands of each student. At the January WSPCA board meeting, a decision was made to earmark proceeds from calendar sales (~$500) to support costs of shipping books to Slidell. And the donations continued, coming from more Peace Corps alums, second hand bookstores, friends who heard about the effort, relatives, and colleagues. One principal contributed money for a portable library to make those first donations available to all the classes of the school, which were being held in the gym of an elementary school [their second temporary home]. Temma Pistrang helped secure donations from the Friends of the Seattle Public Library’s April book sale, netting over 350 books. The Student Council at Room Nine Community School in Shoreline took on the wish list of Slidell Pathways as a special project and raised donations and money to send 430 books. These were accompanied by over 30 hand written letters from the students at Room Nine to the students at Slidell Pathways – complete with poems and art work and personal greetings. Exhibitors at various education conferences came on board and over 150 new text books and readers were sent.
People hearing of the efforts helped in small ways as well: Office Max donated book covers to help dress up some older books; the manager at the mailing service donated her charges so that only postage costs had to be paid; colleagues and relatives contributed to mailing costs. As some of the donations were more appropriate for high school, Salmen Flamen High School became a co-recipient of a number of donations. Over twenty boxes reached their temporary school and slowly the library shelves have started to fill up. Their old school is getting rebuilt and the modules are in place for fall opening.
At this point at least 1,000 books from the Seattle area have reached Slidell Pathways. The modules for the new classrooms are also ready and summer break will see them better equipped for the fall start. In the next school year, it is anticipated that more of the evacuees will be returning, as housing slowly becomes available. Thanks to your help, the new library will be waiting for them too. An amazing start has been made, and hopefully the next step of obtaining classroom equipment such as science supplies, maps, globes, and gardening equipment, will follow.
Sending the needed books has been one accomplishment, but a more important one is the sustained group effort which has lent support and encouragement to those struggling with painful memories and experiences, bolstering their energy and will to go on and rebuild. No price tag can be put on that, but it has made a real difference. The faculty, staff and students express their personal thanks to all those who have helped materially as well as helped keep alive their faith in humanity. We join them in expressing our appreciation as well.