The fundraising ball began rolling after teacher Justin Gregory mentioned to Activities Director Matt Soeth around Thanksgiving that he had a friend in New Jersey looking to help a couple of families in Brick, New Jersey, whose homes were devastated by the hurricane in late October.
Soeth said he took the matter to the school’s leadership student council, and its members decided get the whole school involved to help the Turner family — Joe, Debbie and 6-year-old Ayla.
Monday, Dec. 24, Debbie Turner said she and her family lost everything to the flood waters that inundated New Jersey and large swaths of the eastern seaboard.
“Who would have thought the whole house would get flooded?” she said. “At the end of the street, it was 12-feet (of water) and four-and-a-half-feet when it got to me. It took everything in its path.”
Since evacuation in their area was optional, she said the family was home when the ocean from the nearby bay started to rise.
Debbie, on the verge of giving birth to son Carson “Hurricane” Turner, said the family decided to escape to a neighbor’s multi-level house across the street. She said from there she was able to “watch her house get swallowed” by the ocean.
“It was more like a tsunami,” she said. “It came in so fast. We had eight to 10 minutes to escape or stay in my attic.”
Soeth said attaching the family’s story to the fundraiser gave Kimball students extra motivation.
“In the past we used the Red Cross, but kids like putting a name with an actual project,” Soeth said. “I shared the pictures (of the family’s house) on Facebook, and that’s when it started to click. It turned into a school-wide competition.”
Over the Thanksgiving break, Soeth said students were urged to drink a lot of milk and juice so they could use the containers to collect change for the family.
Once school was back in session, every classroom was given a container. Within a week and a half, the students had raised $1,026.78.
The most money, $522, was raised in math teacher Enayat Quayumi’s class.
Gregory said he was overwhelmed by the students’ desire to help.
“I think it’s awesome, because a lot of times giving to a big foundation seems it’s almost nameless,” he said. “With something like this, it’s a little more personal.”
A student who took part in the fundraising effort said in a telephone interview Monday, Dec. 24, that she knew right away students had to help.
“When we were first approached with it, it felt like we just had to do something,” 17-year-old senior Devin Cothren said. “We saw all the devastation, and it was horrible. Some families lost everything. We really wanted to make something to brighten their holiday season. It felt great to be helping out.”
The Turners weren’t able to assess the destruction for a few days. Debbie Turner said they discovered everything was damaged by the sea water, including all their appliances and furniture. She said they are now considering tearing down the house due to the structural damage and rebuilding.
When she first heard about the Kimball students wanting to help her family, she said she was surprised anyone hundreds of miles away would care.
“I was shocked so many people wanted to help us out — so far away — they didn’t know us,” she said.
Last week, Soeth said he mailed the family pre-paid money cards for the total amount raised by the students. He estimated the Turners would receive the funds sometime this week.
• Contact Denise Ellen Rizzo at 830-4225 or firstname.lastname@example.org.