The school year began and students in Mrs. McDavid’s eighth-grade English and language arts class at Jones Middle School in Trenton, N.C., were brimming with excitement. Everything was new: backpacks, books, even their teacher.
Then just as they were settling in, Hurricane Florence swept ashore Sept. 14, 2018. The storm crawled across eastern North Carolina, dropping up to 30 inches of rain and causing catastrophic flooding.
Some students at Jones Middle School lost their homes. Some teachers lost theirs. They all lost their school.
Victoria McDavid Credle (who goes by Mrs. McDavid in her classroom) was a first-year teacher following in the footsteps of her mother, who taught for 43 years. She had expected challenges but nothing like what Florence unleashed.
“When it was safe enough to go into the school and see what we could salvage, we had to wear boots and masks and walk through the water,” she said. “My classroom was a total loss. Posters. Textbooks. Library books. Whatever the water didn’t get, mildew got the rest.”
As days stretched to weeks before classes resumed at the local high school, McDavid anticipated ways for her students to make the transition. They would have a lot of catching up to do, and she wanted them focused on learning – not on whether they had backpacks or notebooks or pencils.
Around the same time, Duke Energy was looking for ways to help customers affected by the storm. Amy Strecker, N.C. stakeholder philanthropy manager, had turned to DonorsChoose.org for resources when she taught high school English in Warren County, N.C., through Teach for America. Duke Energy had also used the classroom crowdfunding site to target donations to specific school systems. Strecker knew the nonprofit could benefit teachers and students and could do it quickly.
And so Duke Energy put together a program with DonorsChoose.org and allocated $160,000 toward hurricane relief for schools in 11 counties in North Carolina and five in South Carolina.
McDavid was one of hundreds of teachers who sent in applications.
“On October 16, when the students returned after being unable to attend school for over a month, almost all of their vibrancy, hopefulness, and eagerness was unapparent,” McDavid wrote. “Seeing the grief and despair in their faces added to the stress that I was already feeling in my own heart – really hit me hard – but I knew I had to quickly pull myself together and remain strong for my students.”
She requested about $500 worth of supplies ranging from interactive workbooks to a pencil sharpener.
“One of the things I love about educators is that they have such a spirit of perseverance,” Strecker said. “We wanted to empower them to do the most they could to help these children come out of Hurricane Florence. I feel really good about how quickly we were able to employ this. By Nov. 15, we had all the funding together and could push it out.”
In addition to money from the company, Duke Energy employees also contributed. All told, donations went to 395 teachers in 153 schools, helping 42,677 students, many of whom come from low-income households.
“We were hearing stories about kids coming back to school and they weren’t living at home because their home flooded so bad and they had no school supplies and extra money wasn’t available for that kind of stuff,” said Amanda Dow, S.C. stakeholder philanthropy manager. “One teacher asked for a class pet as a comfort measure for kids going through what we consider a traumatic situation.”
McDavid said donations from Duke Energy and other sources made the transition much easier at Jones Middle. “I told the students, ‘Raise your hand if you need a notebook, composition books, markers, pens. …’ and I could get them what they needed.
“They saved our year, the donations did,” McDavid said. “We were able to focus on catching up. I lost all my posters, all my informational boards. Receiving those new items really, really helped me replenish my classroom.”
A big thank-you from teachers
Comments to donorschoose.org from teachers:
Mrs. Oakley, Grades 6-8, Wilmington, NC:
“The 2018-2019 school year has been anything but normal for students in eastern North Carolina. Less than a month into school, more than 1 million people were displaced for almost 5 weeks...Because of your generous donation, we were able to maintain normalcy in our curriculum and read our beloved Stargirl novel. It has been my mission to keep as much consistency as possible with my students, especially after the storm. I was really worried I would not have been able to pull this off.”
Mrs. Smith, Grades 3-5, Aynor, SC:
“Often, students wear shoes that have soles broken and sometimes even missing. Other students wear shoes entirely too small for their feet. Hurricane Matthew has really put a financial hardship on many families, preventing them from buying the bare necessities. I have a closet that I use to store needed supplies and clothes for students. I am in need of shoes for girls so that they will actually have shoes that fit their feet.”
Ms. Hudson, Grades 3-5, Wilmington:
“Thanks to your generosity, my students are going to have the tools to develop a solid foundation in important science concepts. And, they are going to love it! Thank you for helping me make temperature and motion hands-on, fun and relevant!”