School gymnasiums are sometimes called “the heart of a school”. They hold physical education classes, sporting events and the occasional dance. In short, they are a social gathering spot.
On May 20, a powerful tornado destroyed the gym at Highland East Junior High School in Moore, Oklahoma instantly removing the heart from that school. It also destroyed classrooms and the choir room. .
Insurance with the district is helping rebuild the gym but it doesn’t cover everything in the gym. One of those items not covered is the sound system once housed there.
“We realized we needed a system once school started,” said principal Kathy Knowles. “So we called the Red Cross and asked if they could help and they said absolutely.”
The Red Cross worked with the school to figure out what was exactly needed and $6,000 dollars later, the school now has new equipment. The Red Cross foots the bill thanks to the kindness and generosity of donors at home and across the country.
“We will be able to put part of the system to use right away,” Knowles said. “We have student government elections coming up so this will help with speeches.”
The students at the school don’t know about this gift yet, but will find out very soon.
“We’ll put them in the cafeteria and I know they’ll be excited,” Knowles said. “It breathes life into the whole system.”
Red Cross of Central and Western Oklahoma regional CEO Janienne Bella was on hand for the presentation and told teachers the Red Cross is committed to helping with recovery and other needs the school may identify.
“We’re far from recovered here and we’ll definitely be reaching out to the Red Cross for assistance,” Knowles said.
The school just held its groundbreaking on the new gym and construction is expected to wrap up next October.
This is the second project the Red Cross has done with Highland East Junior High. Back in August, the Red Cross presented some teachers and staff with gift cards to help replace lost personal classroom items due to the May storms and tornadoes. These same cards were presented to teachers of the two destroyed elementary schools in Moore, a small district east of Moore and some teachers in El Reno.
The Red Cross and its partners are performing long-term case management for individuals and families affected by the May storms and tornadoes in Oklahoma. Work is being done from offices in Moore, Shawnee and El Reno. Those needing damage related assistance should call 1-866-477-7276.