10/20/2017 10:50:00 AM Harvey help coming from Unit 3
Evan Holscher, left, Faith Baron, Jerika Coffman and Melody Benton work on sorting and packing items to be donated to victims of Hurricane Harvey, in Orangefield, Texas. The Palestine High School students were just some of the many who have worked on the relief project. (Tom Compton photo)
Students and faculty from the Palestine Unit 3 school district are sending help to Hurricane Harvey victims in Texas.
As the Category 4 hurricane made landfall near Rockport, Texas, the country held its breath and people began thinking of ways to help. Melody Benton, resource teacher and special services coordinator at Palestine High School, was one of those people.
"I wanted to do a drive or something," she said.
She began looking for places to donate to or help. Her first thought was of Palestine, Texas. She contacted the pastor of the SSS Cowboy Church there. Through him she learned that he, too, was a rodeo clown, like long-time Pioneer City Rodeo clown Rudy Burns, and was a friend of Rudy's.
Benton also learned that the people of Palestine, did not need as much help as elsewhere, and gave her the contact information for three other communities.
In the meantime a hurricane relief collection was taken up by Palestine High School students during the Saturday performance of the Pioneer City Rodeo. Around $2,800 was collected. Back at school, students began collecting bottled water, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene items to send to Texas.
At random Benton chose the community of Orangefield, Texas, from the three she was given, and contacted local rancher Will Winfree.
As more time passed Benton learned from Winfree that three families in Orangefield were struggling and could use some extra help. One was a family with six small children who had lost everything. "They are eating on the floor," Benton said.
She was able to buy a table and chairs along with some toys for the children and other needed items.
Another family, a mother and adult daughter who is paraplegic, had asked for a recliner chair. Benton said she also learned they did not have a bed and were sleeping on the floor. Benton was not able to find a bed, but did buy an air mattress bed with pump system. She was able to buy two recliners.
The third family is a grandmother raising her granddaughter, who is in the seventh grade.
In addition to the larger specific items, each of the families is getting a collection of cleaning supplies and bleach to help keep the mold at bay as cleanup efforts continue. They have also included a number of comfort and inspirational items.
Benton said her father is converting his trailer to hold several appliances that are also going along with the purchased and donated items. More than 500 cases of bottled water were collected, and while need for them is not as great, they are still going. Benton said she has also received gift cards, tools and other donations from local businesses and individuals.
PHS students have been helping Benton organize the donated items and move them. The plan is to load the trailer this week, and for Benton to head for Texas after parent-teacher conferences on Friday.