It was the kind of damage one could expect when Hurricane Katrina came knocking at the door of the oldest school in Mississippi.
"Walkways between wings were destroyed," says Shirley Hardman, a teacher at Woolmarket Elementary in Biloxi, Miss. "The second-grade wing lost its roof. We had to start from the furniture on up."
While the students of Woolmarket Elementary are beginning to rebuild their lives, Chicago Parent readers are helping to rebuild the school’s library.
The elementary school is one of three sites that will receive books collected from Chicago Parent’s book drive. Chicago Parent, which first sent boxes of books to the Houston Astrodome in September, will also mail books to Moss Bluff Elementary in Lake Charles, La., and Heartland Alliance, an organization whose resource center libraries will serve hurricane evacuees in Chicago. Local retailers hosting our book drive drop boxes are reporting generous contributions.
"The box was better than we had hoped," says Jodi Tatara, manager of Gymboree Play & Music in Northbrook. The store filled the box Chicago Parent provided along with two additional storage containers before the first pickup. "People just kind of stopped by and asked, ‘Are you the people collecting books for Katrina?’ " Tatara says. "They weren’t even enrolled."
It was much the same at Gymboree Play & Music in Skokie. "At times, the box was overflowing," says employee Jessica Fogel. "People would bring in their own bags of books and set them against the box."
Chicago Parent has eight drop sites located throughout the Chicago area, and plans to run the collection through December. (For a complete list of drop sites, see our ad on page 92.)
But we’re not the only ones in the area committed to restocking bookshelves. Illinois State Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park) decided to start a book drive after she "adopted" State Rep. Diane Peranich’s district in Harrison County, Miss. It was Peranich who gave May the idea to help schools in the town of Pass Christian.
"The town was devastated," says May. "Three of the four schools were destroyed."
May’s book drive has received overwhelming support from participating schools in Northbrook, Glencoe and Highland Park.
Meadowbrook School in Northbrook raised money to support May’s book drive with a car wash, bake sale and walkathon. According to Beth Hirshman, co-chair of Meadowbrook School’s community connections committee, $5,000 was used to buy reference books and Newbery and Caldecott award-winning books for the Mississippi schools.
Hirshman says she thinks it’s important to keep children involved in the relief effort. "I’m hoping Karen [May] shows up [at the school] with the truck so the kids can see the books off," says Hirshman.
Hirshman’s committee co-chair, Emily Dischinger, says her son David, 8, participated in the three fundraising events, but took the most initiative with the walkathon. David says he raised $140 by walking 11 miles with friends at recess.
"I saw how bad the hurricane was [on TV]," says David. "It felt pretty exciting to help."