Over the past few weeks, students, staff and parents of the Petal School District have participated in a reading study with “The Coffee Bean,” a book by Jon Gordon and Damon West about the power of one’s environment – and steering it in a positive direction.
The school district is now putting that ideal to use with its latest “Coins Count” fundraiser to benefit the St. Charles Parish School District in Louisiana, which was battered by Hurricane Ida late last month.
“I think a couple of things go into this initiative, and the first is what we teach our kids beyond academics – the importance of helping others in need,” said Matt Dillon, superintendent of the Petal School District. “This is a great way for us to live out our mission, and our ‘Coffee Bean’ initiative, so we can be a ‘coffee bean’ to those around us and impact our environment in a positive way.
“In addition to that, we have a close relationship with (the St. Charles Parish) School District; this is part of the Eastern States Consortium that we’re a part of.”
During the coin drive, which lasts until Sept. 17, each of the five schools in the district will host a one-gallon bucket that students can fill with coins and bills to help repair the schools in the St. Charles School District. In addition, community members can donate at the Petal School District Central Office at 115 East Central Avenue in Petal.
The donations will be used to purchase gift cards to send to schools in the district.
“Representatives from (the St. Charles Parish) district have been to our district in prior years, and we’ve visited their district before, so we have a relationship with them,” Dillon said. “For us to be able to walk alongside them in a trying time, I think it’s very important for us to assist them in any way we can.
“I think the donations we raise are going to be able to help those students and those staff members get back on their feet. We’re going to raise as much as we can, and go from there to make those funds into gift cards, and they can use them in the days, weeks and months to come.”
The Petal School District has hosted “Coins Count” in similar situations for other schools in Louisiana, Texas and Florida, including last year’s initiative for DeRidder, Louisiana. Those drives have raised anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000.
“We’ve been on the receiving end from donations such as this from tornadoes in the past, and it was very helpful for us to be able to get back on our feet, and to be able to do the things we needed to do to get school back in session,” Dillon said. “I know in the 2017 tornado, it was very meaningful, all the people that showed love to us and helped us, so it’s important for us to give back as well.
“It’s really not so much the dollar amount; every cent matters, so it’s not necessarily about us hitting a certain goal. We just want to do everything we can to assist, and we found that this is something that has been successful in the past for us.”
Hurricane Ida is officially the second-most damaging and intense hurricane to strike Louisiana on record, behind only Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The storm, which caused catastrophic flooding across the Northeastern United States, resulted in an estimated $18 billion in insured losses in Louisiana.
“I talk to, or text, the superintendent (in St. Charles Parish) probably once a day,” Dillon said. “Of course, what they’re asking for right now is just prayers and encouragement, but they did say if we wanted to do something, gift cards would be a way to help them.
“So we’ve been in contact, and they’re very appreciative of us even thinking about doing anything for them. They’re working seven days a week to try to get back in session as quick as they can; they’re going to be out possibly a few weeks to several months, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. This is one little thing we can do to help them.”