Friday, September 15th, was a day filled with hope, sadness and comfort as the community came together at Lockhart Elementary Magnet School to support the students and staff from Lee Elementary Magnet School.
Over 350 volunteers, including Hillsborough County Public Schools employees, students, and community partners showed up for an emotional and inspiring day helping the teachers and staff prepare for another “first day of school” experience for all the students affected by the fire, which devastated Lee’s historic and beautiful campus after hurricane Irma.
Throughout the day you could hear laughter, see tears, and feel compassion as everyone came together after an emotional week. There were multiple calls to action for volunteers to unload trucks, and these calls were quickly answered with dozens of volunteers eagerly ready to help and serve the teachers in need.
The Hillsborough Education Foundation (HEF) delivered truckloads of donated school supplies to fill Lee’s classroom needs. Volunteers, HCPS employees and HEF staff members packed and transported two truckloads of donated goods from the HEF building to Lockhart Elementary. They expect 17-18 more pallets of donated goods from Walmart and Target in the coming days.
“At HEF, we help teachers and students in the community. We will continue to take donations from September 18th – 29th, Monday through Friday at the HEF Building. We will continue to be there for them and make sure they have the resources and tools for them to continue getting an excellent education and for the kids to focus on learning,” said Kim Jowell, President of Hillsborough Education Foundation.
HEF has a donation page dedicated to Lee Elementary on their website. Each displaced teacher will be given a wish list form to fill out their individual needs.
Bob Conigliari, Vice President of Community Relations for Caspers Company, who owns most of the Tampa Bay area McDonalds Restaurants, served over 300 breakfast sandwiches and coffee to volunteers, despite having 19 of their 53 restaurants without power, personnel issues and product delay.
“Caspers has been an integral part of the school district for as long as I’ve been here— the past 42-years. I feel like I am a part of the school system,” said Conigliari.
“Our CTA staff never quit asking what they can do to help. Our members were asking what they could do and where they could go. We are educators who help each other to provide the very best for our kids,” said Jean Clements, HCTA Board President.
Partnership in education is deeply rooted when you see the bond between the volunteers from Idlewild Baptist Church and staff from Lockhart Elementary Magnet School, who have created a culture of support and giving towards the teachers and students. They knew they had to step in and help when they heard news of the fire and that Lockhart was welcoming the Lee family into their school.
Idlewild volunteers provided lunch and a coffee bar to keep the volunteers energized while assisting at Lockhart. The dedicated volunteers did not stop there, they also unloaded trucks, sorted supplies and helped to set up classrooms for the student’s arrival.
Earl Burgess, Idlewild Class Leader and project lead for Lockhart Support, along with members of his class have provided ongoing support to Lockhart Elementary for the last two-and-half years. They provide landscaping, workdays and self-help projects such as refurbishing the teacher’s lounge with donated furniture and supplies.
In the Lockhart library, volunteers and teachers were organizing book donations and picking up books for classroom libraries donated by community partners. Categorizing over 1,100, the book count was up to at least 3,000. A volunteer team from Wilson Middle School worked all day in the library selecting books to create a complete classroom library.
“We have books for approximately 13 classrooms. We have 15 media specialists from other sites here volunteering, said Kimberly DeFusco, supervisor of Library Media Services.
The dedication and commitment shown on Friday is a testament of how proud and strong Hillsborough County Public Schools stands together with its community partners, not just in times of need, but always.
On Monday, Sept 18th, the students, teachers and staff of Lee Elementary were welcomed with open arms at Lockhart and Young Magnet School, where they will stay the remainder of the school year.