BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – An enterprising sophomore at Fort Madison High School who was moved by video of people needing rescued from flooding waters in southern Texas, has mobilized local officials and businesses to help take up the cause.
As a result of the work of sophomore Lexi Miller and her family, and now a group of staff at the Fort Madison High School, non-perishable donations are being collected at the high school. Also, it was confirmed today that collection boxes will be put out at the FMHS vs. Central Lee football game at Richmond Stadium Friday night and fans are asked to bring an item to donate to Texas hurricane relief. Officials at Central Lee are also aware of the efforts and FMHS student volunteers will be on hand to accept the donations.
The district will also have a pick up truck on site to hold and move donations, if needed, to a location where they will be held until being shipped.
Miller has family in the Houston area, but on the north side currently out of Tropical Storm and Hurricane Harvey’s path of destruction. But it was when she saw footage of elderly women in a nursing home standing in flooded waters needing assistance, that she told her parents they needed to do something.
“Well, it all started when I saw the pictures of the ladies in the nursing home with water up to their chest and I didn’t see or hear any news about them getting any help and that just made me think we need to do something,” Miller said.
“I went to the counselor to see if we could set up some kind of donation thing at the school for things like canned goods, old clothes and they initially said they were too busy setting up for the rodeo. But my mom posted on Facebook and the principal immediately called and got things going.”
Miler said she started writing down lists of people they could reach out to and supplies that should be collected. I already have boxes ready. My mom has contacted some of her friends to help. We have a place to store everything and my dad’s company, Ruan Transportation, is looking to see what they can do to help.”
Miller said she has a concern that people won’t respond to the call for help. She also said students who help with the collections can get hours for their volunteer graduation requirement.
“I’m curious to see how much stuff people will bring. I’m a bit nervous about people not bringing anything,” she said.
Lexi’s mother, Amy Hayes, said she’s happy the school responded to a student who was looking to show a little kindness and sunshine on a bad situation.
“Somebody saw that on Facebook and got back to (FMHS Principal) Greg Smith, who then put out an email and asked someone to get in touch with me and see what we were looking at doing.”
Smith said Terry Holterhaus, the schools Gay Straight Alliance sponsor, stepped up immediately.
“Mom called and wanted to know what we could do to help,” Smith said. “I sent an email to those organizations in the high school that typically do those types of things. My GSA sponsor, Terry Holterhaus, got with me and said, ‘We want to do this and we’re passion about it. They’re going to put boxes around the high school. We’ll empty those boxes each day and do this for about two weeks and see where we’re at and if we don’t think we have enough, we may extend it.
“This really warmed my heart because we do so much to get kids to think about other people. We didn’t have it on our radar, all the staff and faculty, with so much going on and one of our students said we really want to do this. That’s really a testament that they are getting that ‘giving back’ piece. It validates what we’re doing here.”
Donations being accepted will included non-perishables, baby supplies, formula, toiletries, water, clothing, blankets, first aid kits, gift cards for gas or food or anything else you can think of that people in the devastated areas would need.
Hayes said Miller’s group will also be putting a float in the parade and are looking at requesting donations be brought to the parade where adults will be walking up and down both sides of the parade and would be able to take donations and put them on the float as it moves down the parade route.
A communication was sent from Ruan Transportation, where Hayes husband works, and those employees and vendors are trying to generate a collection as well.
All the goods will be shipped to the areas of Texas where they are needed most. Hayes said the Red Cross and Salvation Army only deal in monetary donations but she said, “even if we have to rent every U-Haul in town, we’re gonna get these things down there, if we have to take them ourselves.”
Miller’s group wants to collect through the middle of October to allow time for the waters to recede and officials to get a better hand on where the best use of the donations would be.
“Right now they’re just focused on getting people out of the water and in safe places.”
Jacqueline Lumsden, owner of SubArena has offered to be a collection site as well, but only for non-perishable food, not clothing, items as restaurants have strict state and and local guidelines about what can be held in a food service establishment.