Friday, September 15, 2017

Community Rallies to Help Displaced Teachers, Staff

Call it the Boardroom Boutique.

Racks of gently used clothing arranged by gender and size filled the SBISD boardroom late last week, clothing donated by the SBISD community for staff and families displaced by Hurricane Harvey.

Those staff members who came were encouraged to fill bags with as much as much in their size as they could carry. Many looked for a checkout table as they left – volunteer Minda Caesar would ask “Do you want to check out? Check! You’re out!”

Caesar said the idea for the impromptu bazaar came about as she was helping a teacher friend in West Houston who had lost her home and belongings when flooded by release waters from the Addicks and Barker dams.

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Caesar said her friend told her that she knew other teachers who needed help. Caesar reached out to SBISD Council of PTAs president Suzanne Stiles and SBISD Community Relations Officer Linda Buchman and got the ball rolling.

The call for donations went out but weren’t accepted until 9 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7. But there was a problem – there was a meeting for district counselors going on in the boardroom. An army of student and adult volunteers stood ready to accept, sort and display donations, but wouldn’t be allowed in the boardroom until 1:30 that afternoon.

Stiles swung into action, calling principal Bryan Williams at Spring Branch Middle School and asking if he had space where volunteers could temporarily work. Williams said sure, you can use the cafeteria.

So the staging moved over to Spring Branch Middle, where volunteers spent the morning sorting the donations and getting them ready to display on racks retrieved from Memorial High School that are normally used for its annual garage sale. (“We owe [MHS principal] Lisa Weir and [parent] Carolyn Bronson big,” Caesar said.)

By 1:30, the operation had moved back to the Administration Building, where racks of clothes filled the lobby and outside area near the entrance, waiting on the district meeting to end.

Three hours later, the boardroom had been converted into a boutique.

“We really wanted to (set up) in the boardroom,” Caesar said, because of location, access and that it’s well-known in the district.

Acknowledging that displaced families need more than just clothing, a “Wish List” table was set up where those with needs could be matched with those who wish to give.

Caesar said that the call for items was pretty specific, that they wanted quality clothing for staff – “something you’d want to see your teacher wear,” she said.

Volunteers were recruited through an online tool – so many showed up to help on Friday morning that most were thanked for their service but turned away.

“People right now so want to do something,” Stiles said.


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