Smithville gets gift from school that can relate

By Alice Ortiz/Monroe Journal

SMITHVILLE – More than 3,000 books arrived at Smithville Elementary School on Thursday from a school in Louisiana.
Kerner Elementary School in Lafitte, La., received a grant for new books for their library. They decided to donate them to Smithville after learning the school’s library was destroyed in the April 27 tornado that devastated the town.
“This is a very generous donation,” Smithville High School Principal Chad O’Brian said. “It will go a long way in helping with our literacy program, which is the backbone of what a school does.”
Administrators at North Mississippi Medical Center helped transport the books to Smithville. Jai Eschete, an occupational therapist who works with pediatric patients at NMMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center, and his wife went to Louisiana Labor Day weekend in the NMMC van and brought the books back to Mississippi.
“As a child, I have been through hurricanes in Louisiana,” Eschete said. “When Hurricane Katrina hit, people gave and helped us. People have no idea of the giving spirit of others until something like this happens.”
Eschete’s aunt, Claudia Lauland, wrote a letter from Kerner Elementary to the Smithville faculty and students about their town and school. She talked about the loss of homes, property, their local government buildings, including their local public library, being destroyed in Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Gustav. For about two years they did not have a public or school library.
“Our children had no resources other than Internet services or their school books,” Lauland said. “Please know that it gives us great pleasure to do for your school in the same manner that others did for us.”
Smithville students had been scattered in temporary locations away from the town since the tornado. They were reunited on Aug. 29 in portable classrooms on a 19-acre site of county-owned land on Industrial Road while the Smithville school is being rebuilt.
alice.ortiz@journalinc.com