Christmas came early this year for students and faculty of Bloomington ISD, near Victoria.
In August, the area was devastated by Hurricane Harvey. More than 85 percent of the homes in the small community of just 2,459 were damaged. So were its schools.
As a way to help, students from all seven Mansfield high schools recently came together to take part in “Students Helping Students,” a community service project. To raise money and get the community involved, the students held a silent auction of several baskets of goods. Their goal was to raise $10,000 with the auction. Instead, it brought in $15,295.
Lynn Wilkie, director of community relations and advertising for MISD, said Diane Freeman, a resident of Hamilton, was the one who made the district aware of the need in the Bloomington school district.
“Diane heard about the devastation at Bloomington ISD, went down to take supplies and was touched; she had to do something to help,” Wilkie said. “She works as a consultant and was facilitating a workshop for the MISD school board and Superintendent [Jim Vaszauskas]. During the workshop, she told them about how Bloomington ISD is struggling to recover, and that’s how MISD felt the urge to do something to help.”
Wilkie said two local philanthropic businessmen, Todd Tonore and William Rhodes, were integral to the fundraiser. They rallied behind the students’ efforts and encouraged others in the community to support the cause. In addition, MISD school board trustee Beth Light donated 600 books to Bloomington ISD students.
Because of the joint efforts of Mansfield ISD, First Presbyterian - Hamilton, and the women’s travel group “Sisters on the Fly,” every BISD student received a Christmas gift. All 866 students received a bag with their name on it, a book and a T-shirt. Students in grades 6-12 also received a Target gift card, while the younger students received a toy.
“I’m grateful for the work Mansfield ISD put into the project,” Freeman said. “My original goal was $36,000.”
She said she didn’t have a final total for funds raised but with the help of MISD students estimates the amount to be about $40,000.
“This will allow us to help the teachers, too,” Freeman added. “There is a great need in this community. What MISD has done will make a difference in the lives here.”
Some MISD staff and student leaders made the journey earlier this month to Bloomington, just southeast of Victoria, to make their delivery.
“It feels really good that we were able to come together to help others,” said Dejardin Moffett, a 16-year-old from Timberview High School. “The district started a new theme this year of “We are MISD,” meaning we are all one district. Projects such as this are an example of #WeAreMISD because we’re all coming together and using our power, our great student leaders that we have at every school, and putting it together to do something great — not only for our community but for other communities outside of us.”
Wilkie said she hopes the gifts will be a beacon of hope for BISD residents.
“The last four months have not been easy for this community. So much has been destroyed, and many are using what little resources they have to rebuild their homes,” she said. “We may be giving the people of BISD the gifts, but we are the ones who have been blessed. We have learned that love is powerful and that the people in our community are kind and compassionate people.”
The MISD high school student leaders said they hope to make collaborative community projects like this one a tradition.
Lance Winter: 817-390-7274