Helping to Heal: MSHS student pitches in for tornado relief

By Adelle Whitefoot

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MARQUETTE- Marquette Senior High School Junior Andrew Middler, 17, woke up one morning and saw on TV the devastation caused by recent tornadoes in Oklahoma on The Weather Channel.

“I watch The Weather Channel every morning to see what it’s going to be like that day, and I saw on there that Oklahoma just got demolished,” Middler said. “There’s was an entire town that was leveled. There were no buildings left, just trash everywhere. They had nothing. Then I got the idea that maybe we could something about it.”

During the ferocious twisters of the past few weeks, many Oklahomans who survived lost their homes -everything they’d built for themselves – but Middler thought that even a little bit of assistance might help them recover.

Middler, a member of the MSHS National Honor Society, said he went to school that day and asked Colleen Gaffney, the NHS advisor, if he could start a donation drive for the people of Oklahoma. When Gaffney gave him the OK, Middler said he got to work right away.

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“I called Operation USA and asked what kind of supplies they needed and how to get the donation to them,” Middler said. “They said if we could get a donation drive up and going that would be great and then they would come and get them.”

According to its website, Operation USA helps communities alleviate the effects of disasters, disease and endemic poverty by providing privately funded relief, reconstruction and development aid throughout the world. The organization offers material and financial assistance to community-based organizations that promote sustainable development, leadership and capacity building, income generation activities, education, health services and advocacy on behalf of vulnerable people.

Middler said Operation USA told him that they needed to collect hygiene supplies and toiletries.

“Think about the things you use to get ready in the morning and that’s the type of supplies they need,” Middler said.

Middler brought the project idea to the rest of the NHS members and he said it didn’t take any convincing at all for them to decide they wanted to help out.

“As soon as I started talking about it they were definitely enthusiastic about it,” he said. “They’ve helped me as far as getting the word out, helping set up stuff and bringing in stuff.”

Gaffney said when Middler came to her with the idea she was happy to hear that he wanted to help Oklahoma out.

“I was pleasantly surprised because he has a lot on his plate, too. As a student he takes a lot of AP courses, so I said if he wanted to run with it we would go for it,” Gaffney said. “I’m extremely proud. It took a lot of effort in such a short period of time to get things together because it’s the end of the school year. I think he did an awesome job.”

The school has been collecting donations for two weeks and will continue to collect for another two weeks. Items needed are brushes, combs, shampoo, body wash, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, diapers and anything that a person would use to get ready in the morning. Monetary donations are also being accepted.

To help out, drop off all donations at the MSHS office between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“I hope people help out because it’s not that hard to go to the dollar store, pick up a few things and donate,” Middler said. “If everybody just donated a little bit, it would help a lot. It doesn’t take a whole lot to make an impact.”