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How helping Myrtle Beach students suffering from hurricane impacts became something more

Myrtle Beach Elementary prepares to give away donationed items to local families

With the help of local merchants and community donations, Myrtle Beach Elementary School is hosting a community store ahead of Christmas, giving away donated items to students and families in need.
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With the help of local merchants and community donations, Myrtle Beach Elementary School is hosting a community store ahead of Christmas, giving away donated items to students and families in need.

An initiative to help flood victims following Hurricane Florence has turned into more at Myrtle Beach Elementary School.

The school will host its second “community store” — offering free food, school supplies and clothes to families of its students — at 2:30-6 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4 with plans to host another in March.

Portia Wright, one of the teachers primarily responsible for organizing the initiative, said the school began taking donations during the long hurricane-related delay in classes and ended up giving away boxes filled with food and other items to 78 of their students’ families the week school restarted.

The most popular item among families by far, Wright said, was laundry detergent, which she said many consider a luxury.

Michelle Greene-Graham, the school’s principal, explained that about 84 percent of the school’s 787 students live in poverty, meaning they often bounce around living in various hotels and can be responsible for taking care of younger siblings while their parents work multiple jobs.

Myrtle Beach Elementary is one of 21 Horry County Schools in Title I, which is a federal assistance program offered to schools with high numbers of low-income families.

“We do a great job educating, but it’s exciting to also be able to meet these families’ basic needs,” Greene-Graham said of the community store.

Wright said the school started receiving more donations after getting media coverage from its initial event, so those involved quickly decided to host another and plan to continue holding them as long as donations keep coming.

“Families didn’t stop hurting just because the flooding is over,” Greene-Graham said.

Donations have included gift cards from Rack Room Shoes, school supplies from Office Max, food from Low Country Food Bank and cash from a church in Pennsylvania that Wright said would be used to purchase more laundry detergent.

Wright also gave special thanks to a pair of sororities from Coastal Carolina University that helped families pack items into their cars during the first community store and are helping her pack up boxes of donations ahead Dec. 4.

The school is hoping to offer items to about 100 families this time, Wright said.

Jackie Owens, a co-organizer, noted that the school will also be bringing in adult education specialists to offer information for parents attending the event.

Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.


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