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City’s schools support tornado victims


With their prom and commencement exercises approaching, Pine Bluff High School’s seniors could understandably have their minds on themselves and their activities. But they don’t, art teacher Virginia Hymes said Wednesday.

Instead, the local students are focused on their counterparts at Mayflower and Vilonia high schools. Hymes said PBHS’ seniors are concerned about how the aftermath of Sunday evening’s killer tornadoes in Mayflower and Vilonia might impact those cities’ students.

PBHS’ Arts Club decided it should do something to help lift the spirits of the Mayflower and Vilonia students. So, the group’s annual Rhythm of the Arts Festival will have a different look when it’s celebrated from 1:40-3:30 p.m. Friday on the PBHS campus. The event has been transformed into a fundraiser, and all donations will be turned over to the American Red Cross to aid in a growing relief effort.

“We wanted to be sure we did something,” Hymes said. “I’m so thankful for our kids and how they want to be noted for service and giving back. I love this city and our kids, and I’m happy that our kids love to give back. Our kids love to serve, and they make Pine Bluff a good place.”

Hymes noted that PBHS students came up with the idea of the benefit on their own, and that the arts club and other student groups are supporting the effort.

“It all started with our kids’ conversation on what they would have done and what they might have wanted if they had been victimized by a tornado,” Hymes said. “We’ve got some great kids here. They’re full of goodness and that rubs off on others. Our students were so eager to help that I think it got a lot of people motivated.”

Hymes said she believes teachers and other adults should better remember that they need to constantly mentor youth.

“Kids do what they see,” Hymes said. “We need to show our children love so they’ll know how to love others.”

Hymes said the collective attitude of PBHS’ seniors has convinced her that the theme of their May 9 prom — “The Great 14” — is no coincidence. “This is truly a great class of seniors,” she said.

Friday’s fundraiser will feature a variety of fun activities, including a pie-in-the-face toss involving faculty members. For a $1 donation, students can throw a pie in the face of a participating teacher of their choice.

Other schools in the city are also getting behind the effort to aid the storm victims.

Once arrangements are finalized, the 16-member PBSD Superintendent’s Student Council will be volunteering its services in cleaning Mayflower and Vilonia properties that suffered tornado damages.

PBSD’s Greenville Elementary is collecting assorted items, including clothing and canned food items. Principal Georgia Sanders said the school conducts holiday food drives each year and also supports various charities.

Sanders said her students enjoy taking active roles in the campaigns, and that faculty and staff members team in helping students experience the pleasure of reaching out to those in need.

Robey Junior High School is receiving donations of clothing, food and bottled water through Friday.

“We’re having good participation,” said secretary Nortoria Thomas.

L.L. Owen Elementary School in the Watson Chapel School District is collecting cash contributions, which will be handed over to the Red Cross or Salvation Army. Principal Tim Taylor said the effort will continue until Friday.

Ridgway Christian School is seeking donations of items ranging from flashlights, batteries and leather gloves to baby wipes, toiletries and pet food. Secretary Lisa Price said the goods are to be delivered Saturday.

White Hall and Redfield

White Hall and Redfield residents wasted no time in banding together to lend aid and comfort to those struck by Sunday evening’s deadly tornadoes in Mayflower and Vilonia.

Moody Elementary School nurse Christie Park was moved by the tragic events that left 15 Arkansans dead. She felt compelled to take action, and when she returned to her job Monday, she discovered her co-workers and a number of students had the same desire. So, Park organized a drive for contributions of bottled water.

After circulating word of the effort on Monday, Park saw a surge in contributions. Twenty 24-bottle cases of water had been dropped off at the school by Tuesday morning, and more is expected before a Saturday delivery.

“I felt like our school wanted to and could help others,” Park said. “I felt that we could do something simple but important and that our children can feel that they contributed. There are a lot of kids and teachers here who have friends and relatives in Vilonia and Mayflower, and they want to do something to help.”

Park said the water could certainly be used for drinking, but also for brushing teeth and even helping to care for pets.

“Your heart goes out for those folks who lost so much,” Park said.

Computer laboratory director Brandy Tomboli is overseeing a Gandy Elementary School campaign being held in conjunction with the American Red Cross. Gandy is seeking bottled water, leather gloves, batteries, flashlights, baby wipes, tarps, sunscreen, 55-gallon heavy-duty trash bags, individually wrapped snacks and hygiene products.

Tomboli said items may be dropped off in the front of the school. The merchandise is scheduled for delivery Monday by members of the White Hall Volunteer Fire Department.

Tomboli said the deadly storms left her with a broken heart.

“It’s easy for all of us to become complacent,” she said. “This really hit me hard, and I’m glad our school can do something to help.”

Taylor Elementary School Principal Tammie Canada said guidance counselor Amy Allen is directing an effort there to collect monetary donations, which will be turned over to the Red Cross for assorted purposes as needs arise. Canada stressed that arrangements have been made with the Red Cross that all funds contributed will be used solely for relief to Arkansas storm victims.

Canada said the school has sought a means of allowing people who might have wanted to help but weren’t sure what to do an easy opportunity to offer support.

Secretary Elaine King of Hardin Elementary School in Redfield said a collection of water and non-perishable food items is underway there. King said Principal Jeff Glover will be delivering the goods on Wednesday.

White Hall Fire Chief Sandy Castleberry, who is also a sergeant with the police department, said that he and eight firefighters — Michael Burleson, Will Johnson, Bryan Moore, John Reed, Steven Rice, Tracy Weaver, Chris White and Kevin Wood — took some emergency vehicles and a trailer into the tornado-struck areas late Sunday night and remained overnight to help in the emergency response effort.

Redfield Police Chief Steve McFatridge said four people from his department responded within an hour-and-a-half of the first call for law enforcement assistance Sunday night.

McFatridge, Sgt. Donald Tucker, Officer Todd Davis and Detective Teri Patterson worked security and traffic. They returned Monday. The Redfield Volunteer Fire Department also sent volunteers to assist.