SHREWSBURY – A number of Shrewsbury students are currently thanking fellow community members who supported their efforts to raise money for tornado victims late last month.
Together, Louie Duke and his neighbors, Brenna and Brayden Kent, raised over $350 to be sent to the Red Cross.
Those efforts followed a separate fundraiser during Spirit Week at Sherwood Middle School. The school raised a total of $2,100.
“There was a lot of people [who donated],” Brenna said in a recent interview with the Community Advocate.
“It felt good to help others,” she added.
Tornados spanned multiple states
More than 70 people were killed after a series of tornadoes ripped across the central and southeast United States overnight between Dec. 10 and Dec. 11.
The worst of the storms carved a more than 165-mile path across Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky, packing winds as high as 190 miles per hour and decimating towns like Mayfield, Kentucky.
Duke, who is in fourth grade, said he heard about the devastation and immediately wanted to help.
“I was like ‘oh my gosh,’” he said.
He initially planned to set up a lemonade stand to raise money. But his father suggested selling hot cocoa instead.
Brayden, in fifth grade, and Brenna, in third grade joined in the effort.
At Sherwood, meanwhile, students in Bethany Jones’ classroom helped with the school-wide fundraiser.
Paraprofessional Gail Merloni had the initial idea and approached Principal Jonathan Kelly about it.
“A tornado could come here. And wouldn’t it be nice if somebody helped us?” she said. “So, why can’t we help somebody even though it’s kind of far away?”
Merloni initially suggested a food drive, she said. But Kelly noted concerns about transporting supplies to the disaster area.
So, the school and its students moved forward with a fundraiser, initially aiming to raise $1 for every student at Sherwood.
Fundraisers moves forward
Sherwood students prepared a short script to announce the fundraiser to their classmates through their school’s morning announcements at the beginning of the vacation shortened week of Dec. 20.
The school rallied from there, producing a flood of donations.
“It was just so delightful,” Merloni said.
Louie, Brayden and Brenna’s fundraiser was delayed first by weather and later by illness as Duke got sick just as the group had initially planned to hold their cocoa sale.
By Dec. 27, though, everything had come together once again.
“All of a sudden we did really well,” Duke said.
Passersby bought hot cocoa and contributed funds for the cause.
After the fact, Duke’s mother, Alissa shared a photo of the cocoa sale to Facebook, drawing a separate, large response there.
They pulled in new donations, this time through Venmo as neighbors saw and celebrated the work of these local students.
“We actually didn’t think it would be this crazy,” Alissa said. “We were just hoping for $50 to be honest. We posted it on the town page and everybody has been donating. We’re blown away by the generosity of Shrewsbury. It’s been wonderful.”
Local leaders ask for monetary donations
Nearly a month after the tornadoes struck the region, the recovery effort in impacted communities in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky remains ongoing.
The Mayfield Messenger, a local paper whose newsroom was leveled by the tornado, reported this week on the process of sorting through donations coming into a 50,000 square foot “restoration center” set up inside a warehouse.
Local officials thanked individuals and groups that had donated physical goods, including everything from food to clothing and bedsheets.
The volume of material was presenting logistical challenges, though, particularly for a volunteer staff that still needed proper training in warehouse management, the paper said.
As a result, a local mayor has suggested that those interested in supporting the ongoing recovery effort consider donating money. That, he said, would allow agencies on the ground to prioritize needs.
Students proud of fundraising work
Having helped marshal some of that badly needed financial support, Louie Duke and both Brayden and Brenna Kent are proud of their efforts and their community.
“I personally felt that we all did a good deed and really wanted it to do well so that we could help the people,” Duke said. “…It was more than one town, so we really wanted to help.”
At Sherwood, the school community is similarly excited about the success of the fundraiser there.
“I was not thinking that we would raise that kind of money,” Merloni said. “…It was unbelievable.”
Money raised both at Sherwood and at the hot cocoa sale will go to the Red Cross. Those interested can support recovery efforts as well by donating online.