Stacey Weddle couldn’t believe her eyes when she flew into her hometown of Lafayette, La., on Aug. 16.
“When I landed, I looked out the window and saw more water than land,” said Weddle, 47. “It was surreal.”
Weddle, who serves as principal at Wake Forest Middle School, wanted to help after Louisiana communities were devastated by recent flooding. She is organizing a school-supply drive that will benefit a school in the area.
The response has been “overwhelming” since Weddle posted information about the effort on a Wake Forest community Facebook group on Monday. She said people started dropping off supplies at Wake Forest Middle the next day.
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Five other schools and several businesses have also asked how they can help, she said.
Weddle grew up in southern Louisiana, an area hit hard by rains that dumped up to 30 inches of water in some places and damaged more than 60,000 homes. At least 13 people have died.
Weddle is familiar with severe storms and rising waters – she was born during Hurricane Camille and her childhood home was located next to a river. But she wasn’t prepared for the devastation she saw during her recent visit back home.
“When I landed and saw the flooding, I thought, ‘This is very different,’ ” Weddle said.
Weddle’s childhood best friend, who still lives in Louisiana, had bought school supplies for her children. But the flood waters filled her home, and the school supplies are gone. So Weddle offered to replace them.
She also talked to teachers who said their classrooms were uninhabitable, only days before a new school year was set to begin.
The school-supply drive at Wake Forest Middle will support N.P. Moss, a K-12 school in Lafayette. Weddle knows the school’s counselor.
N.P. Moss is temporarily accommodating more than 300 additional students from a nearby elementary school that was damaged in the flood.
“We are so incredibly grateful,” said Jody Duhon, principal of N.P. Moss. “It is amazing to think that people from so far away are wanting to help. I hope we never have to repay it because I hope a tragedy never happens in North Carolina.”
Weddle aims to ship or deliver the donations by Labor Day.
She said she is proud of the values instilled in her while growing up in Louisiana. In the aftermath of the flood, community groups have rallied, and residents are sharing food and praying together.
“It didn’t matter what their race was,” Weddle said. “That is the type of community in Louisiana. Strong and tough, they will rebuild and be fine in a few years.”
Madison Iszler: 919-836-4952; firstname.lastname@example.org; @madisoniszler