When an EF-3 tornado tore through North Dallas neighborhoods on October 20, a number of schools in the heart of the city were damaged and destroyed. One of them was Walnut Hill Elementary, which was leveled and expected to be considered a total loss. Girl Scouts Troop 8307 at neighboring Withers Elementary, which was spared from the tornado, got to work immediately on disaster recovery by starting a book drive the day after the tornado.
On October 22, the donated books began flowing to the troop. The book drive lasted eight days and generated more than 1,000 books.
“Our girls truly worked well together on what at first seemed like an overwhelming task,” said Lisa Brinser, a troop mom who worked on the drive. “However, our Scouts knew the books, knew the titles and made fast work of the organization.”
During their regular Tuesday troop meeting, the Scouts, ranging from Daisies to Cadettes, organized and processed the stacks of books for grades Pre-K to 5th grade. The troop also requested bilingual biographies and story books. The response was overwhelming.
Not only will Walnut Hill Elementary teachers and students receive the books, but other nearby schools will also have an opportunity to browse the collection.
After the tornado devastated the school, the principal and teachers from Walnut Hill had done television news interviews requesting new books for destroyed libraries and classrooms.
The troop was immediately and gladly overwhelmed by the response and community outpouring. It was electronic communications and social media effort all the way.
Withers Elementary Principal Wendy Miller sent out school-wide emails detailing the project to all parents. The PTA and Dad’s Club also distributed messages to bolster awareness. Girl Scouts parents began using their social media platforms to inform their friends.
Then the book collection began. In the front hallway at Withers. Via Amazon, UPS and FedEx. And by arranged pick-ups from neighbors around Dallas, where Troop 8307 Scouts, dressed in uniform, accompanied their parents to load up the books and take them to school.
Several of the donors were Girl Scouts in their school years. They expressed to the Scouts how proud they were of their enthusiasm and efforts.
“Our troop believed this would be an immediate and tangible way we could help our community and help children of our girls’ ages get back to normal as soon as possible,” said Laura Capps, a troop mom, who organized the book drive with other adult leaders and girls from the troop.
TROOP’S NATURAL DISASTER HELP NOT THE FIRST
This is not the troop’s first major disaster recovery effort. In 2017, the girls held a drive for bottled water and diapers for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
The Girl Scouts worked with the Red Cross on the drive and held a troop meeting that focused on hurricane meteorology and making a personal disaster preparation kit in case a storm could be approaching their homes.