Two weeks ago, southern Indiana was rocked by a series of storms and tornadoes. These storms wreaked havoc on several communities, destroying homes, businesses, and schools. In the immediate aftermath, Westview Jr.-Sr. High School began planning a series of fundraisers to help fellow Hoosiers to the south.
HenryvilleHigh Schoolwas one place that was hit especially hard and thankfully there were no injuries. The principal at Henryville High School is Troy Albert, who was the principal at Westview High School from 2004-2007. His wife, Karen, also taught at Westview and she is also a Westview graduate. Karen’s family still lives in the Westview school district.
Since there was a strong connection between the communities, the staff and students at Westview knew they needed to do something and the community was called upon for their generosity. At the end of the fundraising, no one could have imagined just how much generosity was in this area. In total, $43,500 was raised by the efforts of Westview. An anonymous donor gave $10,000 with an additional matching grant of $10,000. The community heard the call and opened their pockets as well. An additional $23,500 was raised by students at Westview Jr.-Sr. High School and from community members. People from Goshen, Elkhart, LaGrange, Albion, and even as far away as Huntertown contributed to the fundraising. In addition to financial donations, people dropped off clothes, food, and hygiene supplies.
A semi truck was loaded the first week with all of the supplies and sent on a semi tractor owned by Tony Guyas, who is the brother-in-law of Karen Albert. This past week, Guyas picked up another load of supplies and headed south again.
This was an all out effort by the community. Westview High School Principal Rich Cory called a meeting with the office staff first thing Monday morning after the tornado hit to begin the early planning and brainstorming of ideas. It was decided that the school would sell pop, cookies, collect change, and have hat days for the students. The office staff thought they might be able to raise a few thousand dollars for the Red Cross and Henryville. They were way off.
“Once the story hit the newspapers, people from the surrounding areas were willing to donate to the relief effort as well. We began receiving checks on a daily basis. One person walked in and handed us $500 in cash,” Cory said.
The strong outpouring from the community was well above and beyond what anyone had imagined. Students began collecting change in their first hour classes in hopes of earning a pizza party for the class with the highest total. Students were bringing in $100 bills and cupfuls of change. The school kept stressing the point that for each dollar raised, it would be matched through a grant. The grant money was more than matched in the first few days of fundraising.
Westview Junior High Principal Paul Johnston used his connections at the LaGrange County Community Foundation to set up an account for people that wanted to donate money anonymously. The community foundation in turn served as a holding place for that money before it was given to the Red Cross. As of March 20, $43,500 has been collected and is being given to the Red Cross. Jo Schrader of the LaGrange County Red Cross accepted the check and will put the money directly toward the tornado relief efforts in Henryville.