As soon as the storm had passed Monday morning, teachers and staff at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts got to work. By the end of the day, they had checked on every student and family in the aftermath of the EF-3 tornado that struck Chattanooga Sunday night.
By Tuesday, they had gathered supplies — food, cleaning supplies, baby wipes, diapers — and handed them out to dozens of families.
At least 14 of the school's students and their families were severely hit by the storm, according to school officials. More than 100 families across Hamilton County Schools were affected. Some lost their entire home, some are struggling to make sure children don't go hungry and some don't know where to turn.
Now, Hamilton County Schools is asking for donations from the community. The district has established a community donation hub on CSLA's campus and has opened it up to all students and their families.
"We did have some families whose homes were total losses. We have families in hotels. We have everyone accounted for, though, thankfully," said Jennifer Parris, the parent volunteer coordinator at CSLA.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
— Gatorade and water
— snacks like chips or granola bars
— yard rakes
— diapers, all sizes
— female sanitary products
— baby wipes
— napkins and paper towels
— work gloves
— garbage bags
— storage bins (new)
— gift cards to Walmart, Loses, Home Depot, local restaurants
WHERE TO GO
You can drop off donations at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts (CSLA) at 6579 East Brainerd Road or Hixson Middle School at 5681 Old Hixson Pike from 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 and Friday, April 17. Families can pick-up relief supplies from 12 to 2 p.m.
You can also drop off donations at Hixson Middle School at 5681 Old Hixson Pike from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. or 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 or 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Friday, April 17. Donations will be taken to CSLA for distribution.
Dozens of volunteers gathered Wednesday morning to unload donations and supplies and hand them out. The school is also a free student meal pick-up site, so many families were also able to receive the federally-funded meals.
School board member Tucker McClendon, who represents CSLA as well as many of the areas battered by the storm, said supplies were passed out to nearly 100 families on Wednesday alone.
"This came together through the efforts of CSLA staff on Tuesday for their families and students and CSLA is naturally a good fit for this because of its proximity to the communities most impacted," McClendon said. "We've helped more than 100 families and have had overwhelming support. It's something small, but we want to do what we can right now."
And all the needs have not been met, said Jill Levine, chief of innovation and choice for the district.
Between directing traffic and opening a second hub at Hixson Middle School, Levine was also communicating with other community leaders as they learned of specific needs in areas across the district.
"As cars have been pulling in, the need has been stunning," Levine said. "There are people who have lost everything. They don't know what they need or even where to go. We are trying to do what we can to meet basic needs, and we are also trying to do outreach to find out what specific needs there are in specific areas."
A squeaky red van pulled up in the parking lot behind CSLA, packed with kids and supplies. Theresa Ireland is a special education teacher in Red Bank. As soon as she heard the call for help, she knew she had to act.
Ireland's childhood home was in Holly Hills, one of the subdivisions most ravaged by the storms.
"I just want to do whatever I can," Ireland said as volunteers unloaded donations from her trunk.
This is what teachers do, Parris said. This is what family does. They take care of each other.
"That's who we are. This is who CSLA is. We view ourselves as a family, and when your family is hurting, you help them," Parris said.
Educators aren't the only ones donating. Anyone may help.
District officials and school volunteers will continue collecting and dispersing supplies at CSLA on Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A second collection site will also be set-up at Hixson Middle School. Donations can be dropped off at Hixson on Thursday from 8 to 11 a.m. or 5 to 7 p.m. and on Friday from 8 to 11 a.m.
For more information on how to donate or how to get help, visit: www.hcde.org/hcs-continued-learning/resources_for_families.
Contact Meghan Mangrum at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.
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