By MARINA WATERS
Last Thursday, Ridgeview Elementary School Principal Darrell Barnwell and Boones Creek School Assistant Principal Aaron Christian were at their respective schools wanting the same thing — to help Middle Tennessee following the recent tornadoes.
Now through Thursday, March 12, the two schools will accept donations to deliver to Putnam County, Tennessee on Friday, March 13.
“We’re two of the bigger schools in Washington County so it kind of made sense that we could hopefully reach out to a large part of our communities,” Barnwell said. “It was kind of a coincidence that I had just been talking about what we could do here at Ridgeview and then Mr. Christian called me and was thinking about the same thing. At that point, we were like, ‘Okay, let’s kind of join forces here and hopefully generate a lot of donations to help the people who have been effected by the tornadoes. It all kind of came together kind of nicely and we were able to get that process rolling.”
A total of 10 tornadoes made their way through Middle Tennessee between March 2 and 3, causing major damage to buildings and taking at least 24 lives, including 18 in Putnam County.
As Middle Tennessee tries to rebuild, Washington County is working to collect non-perishable food, shampoo and conditioner, soap, razors, toothbrushes and tooth paste, hair brushes and combs, contact solution, deodorant, hand sanitizer and other needed items.
“We really feel like people have had a chance over the weekend to go get things to be able to donate,” Barnwell said. “We saw a lot of families bringing things in this morning. We have two pallets full of water that’s coming in to be loaded on the trailer. So far the response from the community has been great. We’re hoping that continues throughout the week and that we can get the word out.”
Ridgeview will be accepting donations until Thursday morning when the trailer, which has been provided to the schools by Boones Creek parent and local business owner David Hatley, will make its way to Boones Creek to collect the school’s donations on Thursday afternoon.
“We want to do our very best to fill the trailer,” Barnwell said. “I think it’s a 53-foot trailer. We want to do our very best to fill that and provide as many supplies that we can for those in Putnam County. I think that’s the biggest thing, just trying to get as much as we can in this endeavor.”
Ridgeview and Boones Creek aren’t the only Washington County schools working to help Middle Tennessee.
Fall Branch School’s FCA club conducted an impromptu food drive for victims of the Middle Tennessee tornadoes. Those items were sent to Bristol Motor Speedway where a Food City truck was stationed to later make its way to Middle Tennessee. Students who participated in that food drive got to wear a hat to school while also helping fellow Tennesseeans.
“At Fall Branch School, we strive to not only focus on academic achievement, but to also instill a sense of servant leadership in our students,” Fall Branch Principal Mark Merriman said. “We had donations from students, the community, and also from faculty/staff. We are honored to be a small part of this relief effort and wish a speedy recovery to those affected communities.”
Barnwell said he felt Washington County and Northeast Tennessee as a whole has shown its generosity, which is evident through the growing stack of supplies for Middle Tennessee adding up at local schools.
“We even had an elementary school in Elizabethton that has reached out to me and said they wanted to do something,” Barnwell said. “They didn’t feel like they could do something maybe as big, but they wanted to collect donations. They are even reaching out and bringing their donations to us to load into the trailer as well.
“Just this whole Northeast Tennessee area, the generosity of everyone is kind of overwhelming with how everyone wants to be a part of that and help as they can. I think it’s just important for people to realize we are trying to help out as much as we possibly can.”
To view the full list of items accepted by the schools, go to https://www.wcde.org/cms/lib/TN02209007/Centricity/Domain/8/Donations%20Letter.pdf.