Storm assistance continues for coastal community, school with ties to WCU

WCU’s Center for Service Learning and community partners have been working to get relief supplies to those in need after Hurricane Florence.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, the Western Carolina University community is continuing to come to the aid of those affected, this time gathering supplies destined for a coastal county.

Hannah Cook

On-campus donations should be taken to Room 273 of the Belk Building before 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 19. That will be followed by a community collection taking place Saturday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at Food Lion in Sylva. The event will be part of WCU’s coordinated relief efforts to send much-needed items to North Carolina storm victims. Donations will be directed to the students and families of Craven County schools, including Arthur W. Edwards Elementary School in Havelock, where WCU graduate student and event organizer Hannah Cook’s mother, Myra Cook, teaches third grade.

“The schools there were heavily damaged,” said Hannah Cook. “Many teachers lost everything in their classrooms and will need to rebuild all their educational and student materials. Therefore, there is a large need for school supplies.

“I was inspired to help because the community where I grew up is tight-knit,” she said. “The people who helped me grow up are now in need, and it’s my turn to do what I can to pay forward the kindness my community has shown me.”

Though lacking materials and with neighboring schools still shuttered, Edwards Elementary reopened its doors and resumed classes on Wednesday, Oct. 17.

“The kids are so excited; they’ve been through so much,” said Myra Cook from her classroom of 21 students. “Some came back in tears, a few cried and hugged me and wouldn’t let go. But we’re bouncing back. This is a step toward normal. There are students and teachers here who were displaced from their homes, lost their clothes and things they need, who are traumatized by the hurricane but doing the best they can now and still helping others.”

Myra Cook

The items most needed are typical student accessories, such as book bags, pencils, crayons, notebooks, binders and paper, as well as highlighters and markers for teachers. Also, eagerly accepted will be personal hygiene items (deodorant, toilet paper, toothpaste and toothbrushes, soap and feminine products) and household items, including washcloths and towels, cleansers, paper towels, laundry detergent and pet food.

“Hannah recognized the call to serve her community back in Craven County, organized her thoughts, identified her resources and got engaged,” said Lane Perry, director of the Center for Service Learning. “This is what we expect of all of our students and I am continually inspired by the bottomless well of energy, care and effort of them. There is no better way to choose to serve than through the ideas and passions of our students.”

Hurricane Florence made landfall south of Havelock on Sept. 14, leaving a wake of devastation and subsequent flooding throughout the coastal and piedmont regions. WCU’s Center for Service Learning and other university units, along with community partners, immediately began assistance with collection of bottled water and other supplies. Working with the American Red Cross, WCU facilitated a campus donation drive on to get supplies to locations with greatest need.

For more information, contact the Center for Service Learning at 828-227-7184 or servicelearning@wcu.edu.