August 18, 2012 3:31:50 PM
Jan Swoope - firstname.lastname@example.org
BY JAN SWOOPE
As the wounds left by tornadoes that tore through Smithville in April 2011 continue to heal, teachers and children at Smithville Elementary School will get a helping hand from the Lowndes County Republican Women.
In September, members of this local chapter of the National Federation of Republican Women will deliver more than $2,500 worth of new books, to be distributed among 16 K-6 classrooms.
It's all part of Project Smithville CHILD: Communities Helping Influence Literacy Development.
LCRW Chapter President Mitzi Younger of Columbus explained, "The main focus is to help rebuild elementary classroom libraries that were lost in the tornadoes. It seemed like a project that would have an impact on our greatest commodity -- our Mississippi children."
Funds to purchase the books have come from contributions by local members, as well as Republican Women's clubs throughout the state.
"We chose Smithville because of the great need, and those of us who have taught have an idea what was lost and what has to be replaced. Books are at the top of that list," said Younger, who is a former teacher, as are several members of the Lowndes chapter.
Smithville Elementary School Principal Earl McDonald said, "When they deliver these books, it will be a big help to get us back to where we were."
Most classroom libraries were destroyed by rain, after structures suffered tornado damage.
"We couldn't get in there for two to three months, so there was a lot of mold and mildew," noted McDonald.
The small Mississippi town's K-12 classes are based in temporary classrooms this academic year, while construction continues to rebuild and repair school buildings. Students should be back on their original campus by August 2013, according to the principal.
At school and at home
The new books, which incorporate different ethnic backgrounds, will provide teachers with valuable teaching tools.
Third-graders will get age-appropriate dictionaries purchased from the nationally-known Dictionary Project. "These dictionaries would belong to the children and not the school, which gives parents an additional educational resource to use to assist their children," explained Younger.
Project Smithville CHILD incorporates three areas of emphasis endorsed by the National Federation of Republican Women: Caring for America, Literacy, and Promotion of Patriotism. Each classroom library will include some patriotic themed books, with at least one American flag book.
"Our service project is also being conducted to honor a strong advocate of Mississippi and the rebuilding of Smithville Elementary School -- our First Lady of Mississippi, Deborah Bryant. Bryant has taken a special interest in Smithville's restoration and is expected to be present at the book delivery. The specific date is pending.
"Projects that make a difference are projects well worth doing," Younger remarked. "It's our hope this will make a difference in the classrooms and show our fellow Mississipians that they have not been forgotten."
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.