CLARK FORK — Collecting school supplies for young victims of Hurricane Harvey started out as an effort of the Clark Fork High School leadership class.
It then grew to a districtwide effort as the students and their teacher, KC MacDonald, challenged some of the local elementary students to collect as many items as they could, with the promise of an ice cream sandwich party for those who collected the most. MacDonald had no idea how big it was going to get.
"I really thought it was going to be a few boxes, and then we would UPS or FedX them or something," MacDonald said.
But after the students of Washington Elementary School collected 214 pounds of supplies, he knew he would have to find another way to deliver them. On top of the donations from Washington, Hope Elementary School students rose to the challenge and collected 266 items. Sagle Elementary and, of course, Clark Fork Junior/Senior High School students, collected many items as well.
Now, with about 450 pounds of school supplies collected, it has become a nationwide effort as volunteer veterans from Idaho, Utah, New Mexico and Texas will haul the school supplies to Jessup Elementary School in Houston.
After the idea came to MacDonald, he reached out to a couple of the veterans in Clark Fork. He then got in touch with Rockey Davis, the senior vice commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Idaho in Lewiston, to organize the expedition.
The trailer loaded with the supplies will leave for Lewiston on Sunday, where it will be handed off to Davis to begin its journey to Texas. Each veteran volunteer will take the supplies as far as they can and then hand them off to the next.
"This is awesome," MacDonald said. "I can't believe we've got the whole thing basically set — now we are just worried about dates."
Originally the supplies were to be delivered to the school the following Monday, but with the holiday vacation coming up, school will be out that entire week. MacDonald said they will likely deliver them the following Monday instead, on Nov. 27, and he plans to fly to Texas as the supplies arrive.
MacDonald is working with U-Haul on the trailer rental, and along with all of the school supply donations, some community members donated funds to the school for the trailer. His leadership class hosted a T-shirt fundraiser as well. MacDonald said there may be more fundraisers in the future for Jessup Elementary students.
"Once I get down there I want to see if there is any more need for gift cards, and those kinds of things," MacDonald said. "Once we build that relationship I want to keep it going."
The school is in a low-income area and 92 percent of the students are educationally disadvantaged, according to an email sent to MacDonald from the principal of Jessup. While the school itself survived the flooding, many of the families lost everything.
For now, the students of Jessup will be supplied with paper, pencils, markers, glue sticks, some backpacks, and lots of other essential school items.
MacDonald said he will receive daily updates as the supplies make their way to Texas, and he also plans to leave a trip log with the trailer for each of the volunteer veterans to write in as they pick up the items.
Mary Malone can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @MaryDailyBee.