Just over a year ago our Shorecrest community was preparing for the worst, as Hurricane Irma barrelled toward St. Petersburg. The stress, worry and difficult choices of evacuating and keeping loved ones safe made for a harrowing couple of weeks. We were lucky. The hurricane passed us by, and the damage was far less than anticipated.
This year our state was not so lucky. Schools in the panhandle and Gulf were deeply affected, when Hurricane Michael made landfall in October. Calls for help went out across the state and country, and the Shorecrest Community decided to take action. Through contacts made by our headmaster, Mr. Michael Murphy, we focused on the needs of Holy Nativity Episcopal School in Panama City, Florida.
In late October, we received a list of needs: everything from library books to art supplies, tech equipment and even some furniture. As the donations from our community increased, Headmaster Mr. Murphy decided that he and I would deliver the items in person on a one day road trip.
We left on the morning of Sunday, November 11th, while Shorecrest was quiet and dark. As we drove north, nothing could prepare us for what we would witness in Panama City later that day. About 100 miles outside of Panama City, the impact and destruction of a major hurricane was plainly visible. Power lines were downed, trees were bent sideways and signs were completely blown out. As we approached Holy Nativity Episcopal School, it seemed like whole neighborhoods were covered in the blue tarps used by FEMA for emergency roofing.
We arrived at the school in early afternoon, and we were met by Michelle Cool, the teacher who had written an impassioned statement that was sent out with the donation call. She met us with her family and many of the staff and families from the school. They gave us a quick tour of the facilities. We saw the buildings that had been destroyed, and the improvised school within the the church. Hallways were used as classrooms with science in the dining courtyard, there was even a makeshift library.
The gratitude I felt that day sticks with me. I'm thankful to be part of a community that stepped up to help through donations, and just as grateful that I work with and for a Headmaster who was willing to get up and drive 13 hours round trip to deliver those donations in person. At Shorecrest our service learning is taught by example.
I think what I feel is a level of gratitude for how our community comes together in times of celebration and also in times of need and calls for service. There was something so powerful about being able to hug and shake the hands of the people we had only known through email. To see the location of where students would sit with the books we had donated. This is what I want for all our students: a chance to help that also becomes a chance to witness, to connect and to be empathetic.
We invite you to visit Shorecrest to see how our faculty models service to others and integrates our core values of Responsibility, Respect, Integrity, Knowledge and Compassion into our daily experience.