Flooding of Denham Springs Junior High moved the Sister Squad, a new organization of all girls attending Grace Community Junior High, in Tyler, to launch a book drive for the library of the South Louisiana school that lost all of its books in the disaster.
Five to six feet of water inundated Denham Springs Junior High, one of 15 schools flooded. The gymnasium looked like a swimming pool, over 100 school buses were damaged and 90 percent of the homes were flooded in the disaster.
Sarah Webb, 13, an eighth-grader at Grace, first heard about the flooding in South Louisiana that day on the phone. Her grandmother and aunt and uncle lost their homes in the Aug. 12 catastrophe.
Through a neighbor, who has a friend in Denham Springs, and Facebook, Julie Craddock, a volunteer mom at Grace, also learned about the flooding and that the Louisiana school had lost all of its supplies. She called the school, learned that its library was empty after the flood with only the walls and floors left and that it was in need of library books.
“We really wanted to help them out and minister to them,” said Cate Craddock, 13, an eighth-grader at Grace Community Junior High.
A movement began among the Sister Squad to round up junior high school-level novels and other books in Tyler to send to the Denham Springs Junior High.
The girls announced the drive over the intercom at Grace. Boys joined in and everyone asked neighbors, and rummaged through their closets and homes for books to give.
The drive proceeded quickly. Book donations poured in. The initial goal was 500 books. When the Sister Squad surpassed that goal, it was decided to shoot for sending one book for every Denham Springs Junior High student, or 825 books.
In about a week and a half, the Sister Squad wound up with over 1,200 books and quit counting at that point. The books include fiction, Accelerated Reader, history and other books.
“It shows people that people care about them and we gain some brothers and sisters in Christ,” Cate Craddock said.
“The fact I’m helping others read and get books makes my heart happy,” Webb said. The squad, she added, gained new friendships and bonds between the girls by doing the community service project.
“I had no idea they would collect that many books. They went over and above what we thought we were going to get, so it was a real blessing,” said Mary Kay LeCoq, of Denham Springs Junior High.
“There are not enough words to express how we feel that they (the Sisters Squad) reached out to us, not knowing us and having no connection with us,” LeCoq said. “That was kind, and it shows there is still good in our country.”
The Sister Squad made bookmarks with inspirational messages to go with the books and got together for a packing party and ice cream after school, said Macy Smith, 12, a seventh-grader.
“It was important to serve others and put them ahead of us,” Smith said, saying she gained the feeling of knowing she had helped someone.
After the packing party, the Sister Squad had 20 heavy boxes, each holding 50 to 80 books. Football players helped move them. A parent who owns a cleaning business provided the boxes.
“It made me have the satisfaction of helping others and it made me feel grateful that we have books,” said Anna Claire Hicks, 13, a seventh-grader.
Missionaries from Youth With a Mission transported the books in an emptied-out 15-passenger van to Denham Springs.
Joe Dirksen, principal of Grace Junior High, expressed surprise over the number of books that came in.
The school often talks about who is your neighbor and in this case, he said, the neighbor was six hours away, but the Grace Sister Squad “was able to help and share our resources with our brothers and sisters who had a problem.”
The Sister Squad builds community, not only in the classroom, and it gives an opportunity for girls to share, have fun and become sisters in the school and sisters in the Lord, Dirksen said.
The Grace Sister Squad is inviting the Tyler community to join in the efforts to rebuild the Denham Springs Junior High library. Junior high level novels and books may be brought to the Grace Community Junior High School office by Oct. 28 for another shipment to be sent to the Denham Springs Junior High.