Church comes to the rescue of state (schools)

Published 12:09 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2017

By Lorenzo Salinas


During a time where many homes, businesses and services had to close their doors due to flood damage from Harvey, there was a church in Orange who opened theirs to some of the youngest residents in the county.

North Orange Baptist Church (NOBC) has served as a de facto school for both Little Cypress and Mauriceville elementary students. After Harvey, the elementary schools in the district had sustained significant damage and had to be restored. During which time, the question of where its young students would be educated had been brought up.

Fortunately for them, there were members of the community who sought to solve the question.

“We were very blessed and fortunate to not have floodwater,” Rusty Dollar, executive pastor at NOBC, said. “There were other churches that had gotten flooded.”

Dollar said the principal of one of the elementary schools attends their church. As a result, she had asked him if the church could function as their temporary school while the other one was fixed.

Dollar described the logistics of the move as a possible challenge, but one he and the church were more than willing to tackle.

“It becomes a possible challenge,” he said. “When everything is on the table, you have to ask yourself, ‘What would it take?’

“No longer is it a church versus state issue; it’s a community issue. What’s best for the community?”

Dollar said residents entertained conversations about whether or not the transition would work and if the church itself could house so many students—to which the church family said simply: “Yeah.”

“Our church is made up of multiple teachers and retired teachers,” Dollar said. “So, our church is very connected to our schools. But we’re not the only one. (Others) have helped.

“We’re very fortunate to be one part of the solution.”

Dollar estimated that NOBC has accommodated anywhere between 700 to 750 students between Little Cypress and Mauriceville—and that wasn’t even counting the teachers, custodians and other assorted staff.

Dollar said the church campus is “pretty big,” enough to allow for a semi-normal routine of classes, PE and nurses’ stations to ensue.

“Children represent life and renewal. It’s just fun to watch them walk down the hall,” Dollar said. “The first week was different for everybody, but seeing them return to a normal life and watching teachers hug students and be glad to see them coming back… To me, it’s just precious.”

Dollar said the children have been pretty resilient, especially in light of the adaptations they have had to make in home, school and life.

“It’s pretty amazing to see how they’ve adapted.”

He credited the community as whole—family, neighbors, friends, churches—for allowing such rebuilding to be able to take place.

“Everyone helping each other—that’s the beautiful part,” he said. You see more good than bad.”

“We are so grateful to the members of NOBC for opening their educational facilities to LCM students and staff,” Sherry Combs, community relations coordinator at Little Cypress-Mauriceville ISD, said. “Their classrooms are already set up with child-sized furniture and they have been most accommodating.”

Combs said she and the district have been “overwhelmed” with the level of generosity—not just from the church, but also from communities as a whole.

In the wake of Harvey, Combs has managed donations that go into the district. She said she has been absolutely stunned with the charitable spirit of people and places she had never even heard of before donating to their cause.

Individuals and organizations from places as varied as California and Allamuchy, New Jersey have donated money, school supplies and more.

“How do they even know about us?” Combs asked with a laugh. “They have given us thousands of dollars in supplies and teacher materials.”

Combs said the district has plenty of school supplies at the moment—all thanks to the giving nature of locals and out-of-towners.

“Our schools put Amazon wish lists on the website (and) people have been buying thousands of dollars of school supplies,” she said.

Combs mentioned that it wasn’t just school supplies that were lost in the floods; many teachers had also lost the various items, tools and books they had collected over the years for their students. Many of them had purchased those items out of pocket.

“They had lost all of that, not just school supplies,” Combs said. However, she said she and the district had been overwhelmed by the donations of others.

“It has been amazing the generosity of people.”