TOWNSHEND—The rigors of Tropical Storm Irene translated into a popular free-breakfast program at Leland & Gray middle- and high school in Townshend, paid for by more than $16,000 in contributions from nearly 60 donors from all over the country, including schools, organizations, and individuals.
The breakfasts began in September and will continue through January.
While Townshend was, relatively, spared the worst of the destructive storm, some teachers, students and staff from surrounding towns, including Brookline, Dover, Jamaica, Marlboro, Newfane, Stratton and Wardsboro, suffered major losses of homes, land and businesses.
Floods that reconfigured property, floated homes downstream and tore up roads made just getting out of town impossible for several days in some communities, never mind getting to school or shopping for food.
Beset by sorrow surrounding the death of a student in the summer, and aware of what the national economic turmoil meant to her students, Leland & Gray Principal Dorinne Dorfman saw the dramatic interruptions of daily life caused by Irene not as a last straw, but an opportunity to generate community action to meet the emergency conditions.
She arranged for an increase in counseling services that had been initiated during the summer to help students troubled by feelings of personal and community loss, and organized the necessary deliveries and personnel to serve free breakfasts for all 320 students, 35 percent of whom already qualified for the free meal.
When word of the program was circulated via email to the Vermont Principals’ Association and other professional conduits, the response was overwhelming, Dorfman said. Contributions poured in, along with messages to “hold on” and that “help was on the way.”
The speed with which people responded also amazed Dorfman, she said.
For example, Burr & Burton Academy in Manchester sent a contribution of $1,000, just days after the storm.
Other individual contributions of $100, $200, and $1,000 came in early September from three individuals in Pittsfield, Mass.
A $500 check from Southern Vermont Podiatry in Townshend was sent on Sept. 13. Numerous student groups all over the state contributed; there were coin-drop contributions and checks from clubs.
Reluctant to isolate any particular contributions, Dorfman said was extremely grateful for all the responses.