STAFF WRITER JENNIFER FIERRO
MARBLE FALLS — Marble Falls High School teacher Kimberlee McLeod felt a desire to do more than watch as Hurricane Harvey hit Bay City in late August of this year.
“I lived on the Gulf Coast for a couple of years,” she said. “I have friends there. I wanted to do something.”
Fortunately, her students and members of the National Honor Society, for which McLeod serves as a faculty adviser, also felt called to help.
In September, the Marble Falls High School student council and National Honor Society “adopted” Bay City Independent School District families who had lost their homes due to the hurricane. The students began collecting monetary donations and items such as cleaning supplies, toiletries, clothing, baby items, and children’s books.
They collected donations at home football games. They sold T-shirts. Lake Shores Church in Marble Falls donated $500. When the students completed the fundraising, they headed to Walmart with about $2,000 to purchase supplies for the Bay City families.
They loaded down five shopping carts with items destined for the hurricane-ravaged community.
On Dec. 8, 30 students climbed aboard a Marble Falls Independent School District bus and delivered the donations to Bay City.
They said what they came back with was far more valuable.
National Honor Society vice president Anna Herrington said most people in Bay City weren’t looking for something for themselves but wished for clothing for a family member.
“They have the humblest requests,” she said.
Those simple desires of being able to take care of their loved ones and being thankful for the little they have stayed with the Marble Falls students.
“Bay City has a significantly higher poverty level (than Marble Falls), which is another reason we chose the area,” McLeod said. “They are a comparable size to Marble Falls, but it has a different demographics and socio-economic status.”
Even in Bay City, where they are still recovering from Harvey’s destruction, people wanted to help their neighbors and community. A cotton farmer and a rancher each purchased T-shirts from the MFHS students.
Student council vice president Kassidy Reitan said the rancher and farmer purchased the T-shirts even after suffering their own staggering losses.
While the MFHS students heard about the destruction, they didn’t fully grasp how devastating the hurricane was until the farmer and rancher showed them photographs of the aftermath, student council president Gracie Tinsley said.
The farm and ranch lands looked like lakes from all the flood waters. The cotton fields lay in ruins with little prospects of a crop this fall.
The economic impact hit the families, the cotton gin, and the state cotton and ranching industries.
“That was one million dollars down the drain (for the cotton farmer),” Tinsley said. “For the rancher, it was $3.3 million lost in stock, hay.”
Reitan’s heart broke as she heard the rancher’s wife talk about having to leave horses behind and how challenging it was to get to them the next day. It took three hours for the rancher and wife to travel 2 miles. When they reached the barn, the couple found the horses standing in water up to their knees. The two led the horses to trailers and used a tractor to leave the premises. The rancher walked ahead of the tractor and used a stick to make sure water didn’t get too deep for the tractor and trailer.
It was just one of possibly thousands of stories about how Gulf Coast residents dealt with the hurricane’s aftermath.
The MFHS students also stopped by Cherry Elementary School in Bay City, where they donated four boxes full of children’s books. But it wasn’t just a matter of dropping the books off and hitting the road, the MFHS students took some time to read to the elementary students.
The Bay City students were eager to introduce themselves and couldn’t wait to touch the books.
Herrington said she and Tinsley want to return to Bay City to check on things. People can continue to help the Bay City recovery by purchasing T-shirts for $15. Email McLeod at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to purchase a T-shirt.