HAMLET — Three weeks after Hurricane Matthew, neighboring counties to the east continue to try and rebuild lives disrupted by flooding and extended power failure — but several students from Richmond County Schools stepped forward with their stories of lending a hand during the regular meeting of the school board Tuesday.
“There are possibly a million things I’ve found to do out at the high school and some I haven’t found yet,” said Richmond Senior High School Principal Jim Butler of his first year leading the Raiders. “They’re out there, though. So I feel like I’ve got my hand on the controls sometimes, and my fingers in a lot of pies, but I’ve gotta say, on this one right here — absolutely nothing to do with it. I can’t take any credit. In the midst of all the things we were doing, teachers and students did come to me and said they would like to start this project.”
Butler went on to say he remembered thinking it was a great idea, but he never expected the venture to accomplish as much as it has.
“I was amazed at what they did because in just a few short days I was coming out of my office,” he recalled. “And it was the day they were going to deliver. And I’d seen Ms. (Suzanne) Hudson and Ms.(Shanda) Roberson and the kids working to bring boxes in. I had a few phone calls from other schools and organizations that wanted to contribute. A couple of members of the community came by and dropped a check off. I saw it, but I wasn’t paying attention to it entirely. And when I walked out that day, I was amazed.
“It was like Christmas,” Butler recalled. “Something had happened overnight. I walked out of the office: stacks and stacks of items. And when we walked outside, to see that going on, those kids moving things, loading up those trucks, it’s been amazing.”
Hudson addressed the board, explaining that Roberson, who was not at the board meeting, spurred the project.
“She mentioned at a faculty meeting, whenever we came back to school after the hurricane, that she couldn’t sleep,” Hudson said. “She couldn’t stop thinking about the people in Robeson County, and so about five or six of us got together after the meeting and talked about it, and we said, ‘Well, let’s make a list of their most immediate needs.’ And Christy Ransom said, ‘I’ll put it on Facebook.’ And before we even said anything at school, the next morning when I came in — and I get there early — there were cases of water and boxes of diapers and things already in the front lobby. And this was, I believe Wednesday morning. And by Friday afternoon, we had collected so much that we filled a dump truck and they had to call in a backup trailer. I think every school in the county collected. We also took things from the 9th Grade Academy, Hamlet Middle, Rohanen Middle, L.J. Bell. The VFW donated some water. It was just amazing to watch. And just like Mr. Butler said, I can’t take the credit. These kids and about 40 more were amazing.”
Hudson said that despite initial logistical problems, Bennie Howard enlisted the help of the entire soccer team, and coach Mike Castellano rallied football players to assist in moving the goods. By Saturday, they were ready to roll.
“We knew that we wanted to go somewhere and help, but we weren’t sure where we were going to go,” Hudson added.
She said she saw Statha Osborne at a pancake breakfast at Fatz, and as she explained what the group was doing, Osborne advised Hudson to head to Fairmont.
“She said there was a desperate need in Fairmont,” Hudson explained. “So that’s where we went. She put us in touch with a lady.”
Hudson said the small group of students present with her at the board meeting had done “an amazing job all day long” at the distribution center. In addition to loading and unloading cases of water, diapers and other supplies in Fairmont, the students also collected $2,000 in monetary donations during sporting events.
“Raiders for Robeson was an entirely student and teacher driven initiative. We were extremely proud of the way they not only got their classmates involved but also other schools throughout the county to rally alongside them,” Butler said. “Anything that has that much success, especially with it being the brainchild of our students, is something to admire.”
“Although we have had challenges in Richmond County, our neighbors to the east are facing much more difficulty. I am so proud of our schools in their willingness to help those in need,” said Superintendent Dr. Cindy Goodman. “It is important to me that we prepare good students, but it is equally important, perhaps more important, that we prepare our children to be good citizens.”
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.