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‘Pack the Pirogue’ blesses classrooms with school supplies

BY BROOKE R. CANTRELLE

L’OBSERVATEUR

 

SUPPLIES: Community sponsors contribute to effort

 

LAPLACE — Teachers spend an average of $459 on school supplies each year, according to the Economic Policy Institute, and that figure does not account for expenses of classroom cleaning supplies needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Job loss, furloughs and business closures have also made it difficult for families to come out of pocket this year and provide their children with all of the supplies needed for a safe return to school.

Louisiana Federal Credit Union launched its fourth annual “Pack the Pirouge” school supplies drive earlier this fall to provide area students and teachers with much-needed school supplies. In its first three years, the program delivered a combined 4.5 tons of school supplies to area teachers selected through a nomination system.

This year, LFCU representatives surprised seven teachers and their students with 8,311 donated school supply items, which included school bags, binders, crayons, paper, pencils, pens, rulers and much more. Hygiene items were also included to fight the spread of germs.

This year’s winners were Gina Burst from Norco Elementary, Kira Deroche from Gramercy Elementary School, Ronald Joey St. Pierre from East Ascension High School, Kelly Stockstill from DC Reeves, Heather Catalanatto from Lucille Nesom Memorial School, Toshiba Johnson from Donaldsonville Primary and Sharon Menefee from John L. Ory Elementary.

Sharon Menefee’s second grade class at John L. Ory in LaPlace reacted with cheers and claps Tuesday morning as the pirogue filled with supplies and a cart containing 44 backpacks rolled into the classroom. Students were excited about getting new backpacks filled with school supplies, and they were equally happy to see their teacher getting recognition.

Little voices echoed a chorus of, “Great job, Ms. Menefee!” while one girl exclaimed, “I love my teacher and I love my school!”

Principal Monica Brown was present for the surprise delivery, which she said was well deserved.

“She works hard, and this is another way to show her that she is appreciated. With this virtual online learning, she really jumped in and is doing what she needs to do,” Brown said.

Menefee said the donations came just in time after she had a conversation with a student who had run out of pencils.

“It’s nice to see that your hard work does pay off. It’s good for the students because they have all these things now to be able to do what they need to do in class. It will help them academically,” Menefee said. “Kids go through supplies very fast. This definitely helps because sometimes students don’t have all of the supplies. If they don’t have the supplies, we get supplies for them.”

Teachers show their passion for their career every day, and Krisy Rice of Louisiana Federal Credit Union said that is precisely why it is important to lend them the support they need.

“We know the teachers are doing so much for the kids. We knew there was a need in the community, we wanted to help, and we thought what better way to help than to get the community together and get some supplies?” Rice said.

Since 2017, the Pack the Pirouge initiative has allowed employees to donate internally. In past years, pirogues have been placed inside the LFCU branches, allowing members to contribute.

The advent of COVID-19 meant organizers had to come up with a creative solution this year. Instead of having in-branch drop-offs, LFCU created a “virtual pirogue” to accept online donations from Aug. 26 through Sept. 30.

“This year, we got a little more innovative and had it set up where you could follow a link on our website. It brought them to the Amazon wish list that contained all the supplies needed in the school system,” Rice said. “That way, it wasn’t just random supplies. We wanted to make sure it was needed in the classroom.”

The community submitted more than 100 nominations for deserving teachers, according to LFCU representative Sandy Lambert. A LFCU committee read about each nominee one by one before selecting the winners.

There were seven recipients of this year’s Pack the Pirogue campaign, whereas there have been only five recipients in previous years.

Lambert said business partners Shell, Evonik Reserve, Choice Title and Frisard’s Trucking Company helped make the outreach possible. Shell of Norco donated 280 book sacks filled with school supplies.

Lambert said LFCU will return to the classrooms for financial literacy courses, teaching children how to save money and spend it wisely.

Louisiana Federal Credit Union is a full-service not-for-profit financial institution serving more than 33,000 members in the River Parishes, Tangipahoa, and Ascension Parish region.

The LaPlace branch is located at 350 Belle Terre Blvd. in LaPlace. For more information about the credit union, visit www.LouisianaFCU.org .