Locals help restock ruined library
SUMMIT COUNTY – When Hurricane Katrina tore through Gulfport, Miss. late last summer, the storm left the Twenty-Eighth Street Elementary School in ruins.Rainwater flooded the building after its roof buckled, causing mold and mildew to permeate the halls and classrooms.The school’s library was devastated.”All the roofing had collapsed into the library. The majority of the books were either totally wet or very damaged. … Most of the wood furniture had begun cracking, it was a pretty ugly place,” said Gulfport School District superintendent Glen East. East estimates that 10,000 to 12,000 books were destroyed as a result of the storm.Fifteen hundred miles away from the still-uninhabitable school, generous hands in Summit County are committed to ensuring that when the school reopens to its approximately 300 students this fall, the library shelves will be stocked with plenty of reading material.
“We’re all for getting books into the hands of these young people,” said Summit County Rotarian and Judge Ed Casias.The Summit County Rotary Club recently pledged $20,000 to buy books for school’s library, funds that will be matched in book donations by Usborne Books, a United Kingdom-based publisher of educational literature.About half of the Rotary Club’s sizable portion came from money the civic group collected through fundraisers and charitable donations since the storm pounded the Gulf Coast in August 2005, said rotary president Paul Siegert.”We put the word out that if people made specific contributions for Katrina victims we would match that,” Siegert said. The Summit School District also collected $1,000 in the last five weeks, $365 of which will be eligible for matching by Usborne Books. The remaining funds will be donated directly to the school district so it can buy materials and books for the library that cannot be obtained through Usborne.Besides the thousands of dollars the local community has committed to restoring the library, there are books. Thousands of books.
Suzi Lazo can attest to that fact. Her two-car garage in Breckenridge is stacked with boxes of paperback and hardback selections waiting to be sorted. “We’ve made it into a factory. These two ladies here I’d never even met before today,” Lazo said Tuesday in her makeshift office, referring to a woman scrubbing book covers with a cleaning solution and another perched at a computer entering book titles into a database.Lazo, a volunteer at Breckenridge Elementary School, has spent the past five weeks driving from school to school collecting more than 6,000 donated books, which will be cleaned, catalogued and separated into boxes, then loaded in a U-Haul bound for the south on Friday.Her collections are a result of a countywide book drive spearheaded by local chaplains Jeff Estes and Scott Wilson. Wilson operates the Big Red Bus, a portable carnival of sorts known for its presence at local parades and kids’ events. The chaplains and about a dozen local volunteers visited Gulfport in the bus last October to deliver food, supplies and good old-fashioned fun to kids and families whose lives had been devastated by the storm.While there, the idea for a book drive came up after a tour revealed two school libraries severely damaged in the storm.
Seven months later, that idea has come to fruition.”The whole county is stepping up and I think it’s wonderful,” Siegert said.Wilson and the Big Red Bus will again lead a caravan to Gulfport on Friday to deliver the books that, along with the money from rotary, will give the kids at Twenty-Eighth Street Elementary a full, functioning library. Superintendent East said the district intends to reopen the school in August. A representative from rotary plans to visit the new library sometime after that date, and Lazo will go to Gulfport at the end of July to help the school’s librarian label and shelve the books.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 13625, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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