BATON ROUGE, La. (BR Proud) — Students and faculty at Lakeside Primary in Ascension Parish decided to host a donation drive for Hurricane Laura victims, but wanted to do so in a unique way – what happened next, some may call serendipitous.
“We wanted to help the communities outside of Lake Charles, because Lake Charles is getting all the stuff,” said 5th grader Madison Dotson. The next step was determining which community should receive the school’s support, considering the widespread disaster Hurricane Laura brought to the Pelican State.
Fourth grade teacher Christie Freshwater brought the initial idea to her students after speaking with her husband, who is a volunteer with Cajun Navy 2016. He said relief efforts were centered around larger Louisiana cities and rural areas were just as much in need, if not more.
Freshwater said what happened next was a sign that the donation drive was meant to be. “We first started this and then, we were talking amongst co-workers and I found out one of my co-workers Garret, his father-in-law is the mayor of one of the small towns,” Freshwater said.
Garrett Messian is a fourth grade math teacher at Lakeside Primary. His wife’s father is the mayor of Iowa, which hosts a population of about 3,000 based on the most recent Census data. “My father-in-law actually stayed through the storm at City Hall with some policemen and firemen,” Messian said.
Freshwater said she was humbled to share with her students how personal the connection was between Iowa and her colleague. “Many of our students and faculty members were in the Great Flood of 2016 and so, we wanted to return the favor,” Freshwater said.
Dotson was one of the students to purchase donation items with her personal money. “I kind of felt good about myself at the time, because I used my own money that I made,” Dotson said. “I used the money that I got from making masks to pay for all the stuff I got.”
Other students soon followed Dotson’s lead. “We’ve had kids give up their allowance money – their birthday money,” Freshwater said.
“Even though I have a lot of stuff and I’m grateful,” Dotson said, “these people that did have stuff, it just got destroyed… all their memories are gone.”
A team from Cajun Navy 2016 delivered the items collected by Lakeside Primary to the people of Iowa Saturday.