By Sharon Salyer Herald Writer
EVERETT — To students in a fifth grade class at Everett’s Emerson Elementary School, it didn’t matter that the school destroyed by fire last month was nearly 200 miles away.
Their teacher, Pam Thomas, told them that Crestline Elementary School in Vancouver, Wash., had burned to the ground. Classes for its 500 students and 50 staff members now are scattered among five other schools.
Thomas’ cousin works as a teacher in the school district. After reading about the fire, Thomas said all she could think about was, “How can I help these people?”
Thomas’ own classroom is lined with shelves of books. She couldn’t imagine what it would be like for students not to be able to have books waiting to be opened just a few steps from their desks.
The next day, she saw an offer from Scholastic, a children’s book publisher, with a sale offer of 50 nonfiction books for $50.
“So that’s how it started,” she said. She challenged her students, fellow school staff, family, and friends to help raise money for the book drive.
“The students said, ‘We want to do it,’” she said.
Student Dezirae Pearson remembers Thomas asking if each class member could bring in $2. “Most of us brought in more than $2,” she said. If the Crestline students didn’t have any books, “they would have nothing to do.”
The students also made handmade cards to send to the students who had been forced from their usual classrooms by the fire.
Karina Calixto said the gentle advice she offered on her card was: “to be happy and to try to make new friends.”
The 24 students in Thomas’ class brought in $100 for the cause. Donations from Thomas’ fellow school staff, friends and family raised the total donation to $1,600. That was enough to send 32 boxes of books — a total of 1,600 titles — to Crestline teachers.
Carol Fenstermacher, a spokeswoman for Vancouver’s Evergreen School District, said the shipment of books from Everett is one example of an outpouring of donations from around the state after the fire.
Close to 1,000 people and businesses have made contributions, she said. “The show of support was incredibly generous from everybody,” she said.
The goal is to have a new school built and open for classes on the Crestline site by the fall of 2014.
Cathy Heide, a Crestline librarian, said the school’s students have told her how much they miss their favorite classroom books. Donations of books and supplies made to the students’ classrooms “have been amazingly helpful,” she said. “To have brand new books donated was really meaningful to our student and teachers.”
Melanie Quinn, a Crestline instructional coach, said the school’s teachers were “touched and grateful” to all the school districts.
Emerson student Alex Rose said she knew that her class’ donations would “help them a lot.”
Luka Roby said he wanted the Crestline student to remember that although their school burned down, “the soul of the school will live forever.”
Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; firstname.lastname@example.org.