Personal experience leads to multi-school district effort to assist hurricane Harvey victims

SALINEVILLE – The Southern Local School District is showing its generosity to children affected by the ravages of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, TX, by holding a weeklong school supplies collection.

The district is joining other schools in the area as part of a special outreach program created by Lisbon resident Josh Kupka, who was in Galveston working for a military defense contractor when the hurricane hit.

Kupka was delivering military vehicles and became stranded in Texas due to the flooding. He said some of his colleagues were performing boat rescues after the storm, but he wanted to find another way to help and reached out to schools around his hometown to collect school supplies for children who had lost so much.

Lisbon, Southern Local, Salem, United, East Palestine and Leetonia schools have joined so far, but even more have been contacted to lend a hand.

Southern Local began taking donations during the Indians’ home football game last Friday to help the cause and the collection will continue during regular school hours until Sept. 8, after which the donations will be sent to help impacted youth in the flood area.

Kristy Sampson, principal of Southern Local Elementary and district co-director of federal programs, is organizing the campaign and put out the call to families that Wednesday.

“We are accepting school supplies of any sort—paper, notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, glue sticks, folders, scissors, backpacks, etc.,” she said. “This is a ‘fill-up-the-truck’ effort. The person who contacted Supt. John Wilson is bringing a truck to the district next week to collect the donated items and take them to the Houston area,” she said.

Students in Ashley Bergman’s high school English class are creating posters to support the campaign as part of their “Feel Good Friday” activities and placing them at the drop-off sites in each school building, while SLHS technology teacher Jody Lockhart and her pupils were creating signage for the football game.

Sampson said the goods should be sent around this Friday and she hopes to see the school community help give something back.

“Our community always donates to causes in need and I expect a great response,” she said. Meanwhile, Kupka said local schools can collect until Sept. 21 if they choose, while he and his friends will cover the cost of the deliveries with no expense to the districts.

“Instead of doing an individual effort, I am asking schools to do it district wide so we can make more of an impact,” he said. “We will pick up and sort the items and make deliveries without costs to the school systems,” he said.

Kupka estimated that more than 200,000 students were in the Houston school districts alone, but one truckload of items could potentially help 10 percent of those children. Meanwhile, athletic teams at several local schools were hosting events to benefit the cause.

“Schools can help schools and the kids can get involved,” he added. “What’s great about our area is that we know each other and can do some good together. The school districts are doing all the work and I’m just giving an outlet to help,” he added.

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