JOPLIN, Mo. —
One thing led to another.
First, it was books. Now, it’s donations that some students at Stapleton Elementary are hoping to collect this week as they prepare to pay it forward next week in Moore, Okla.
“So many people gave to us after our tornado, we wanted to pay it forward to a town that got hit by an F-5 tornado — just like us,” said Lindsey Marley, 11, a student in Wes Brownfield’s fifth-grade class at Stapleton.
Kaden Parker, also 11 and in the same class, said: “We’re going there to meet them in person, and deliver the books and money. We have invited Dr. (C.J.) Huff (Joplin superintendent), and he’s coming too.”
Hundreds of books have been collected. It’s not clear yet how much money will be donated.
About 14 students from Stapleton, all members of SOAR — Serving Others as Role Models — will travel on a school bus to Moore to meet with students who attended Plaza Towers Elementary. The school was at the epicenter of destruction for the massive EF-5 tornado that raked across Moore last May 20, killing 25 people. Seven of those killed were third-graders at the school.
As Moore dug out of the rubble over the summer of 2013, school leaders met with officials in Joplin to assess what they might encounter when students and teachers returned for the beginning of school later that year, and to talk about how to improve the safety of Moore’s schools.
About 300 students from Plaza Towers are now attending Central Junior High School in Moore.
“This is a service learning project,” Brownfield said. “The kids have organized this trip. They have calculated the miles, how much diesel will be used and how much they will need to eat.
“They are the ones driving this. I am here to support them.”
To encourage younger students at Stapleton to donate their pocket change, the SOAR students converted some bleach bottles into pink pigs that resembled piggy banks.
“We go into their room, rattle the pig and say: ‘It’s time to feed the pig,’” Kaden said. “It’s marketing to them. It motivates them to donate money. Every class had a bucket that contributed money to Mr. Brownfield’s bucket.”
The plan worked. On Monday, Brownfield could barely carry the tub of coins that have been collected so far.
“It’s really heavy,” Kaden said.
A parent who helped the students said the project has been a success because of support from the school’s business partners, including Joplin Primary Care, Mid-Missouri Bank, Walgreens and Fundraising Works. Helping out with the book drive were Qdoba and The Title Place.
Said Brownfield: “We have had lots of support from the community and from Stapleton.”
Lindsey said she is excited to meet the Plaza Towers students and is hoping to become a pen pal with one of them.
“We all bonded together to come up with a way to give back,” she said. “We had all of these ideas, but we all agreed on this one.”
Want to donate?
THE PENNIES, NICKELS, DIMES AND QUARTERS that have been collected so far will be sorted and counted at Mid-Missouri Bank. Anyone who wants to make a donation to the relief effort may do so at Stapleton School, 41st Street and Hearnes Boulevard, or at a Mid-Missouri Bank location. The fundraising drive ends Monday.