Arkansas Teacher Collects Backpacks for California Fire Victims


CONWAY, Ar. — A Conway teacher is going above and beyond to help students who lost everything in the California wildfires. 

She is trying to get what they need, so when they return to school, they can feel a sense of normalcy. 

Shari McGehee started helping schools in Paradise, California about 5 months ago by collecting backpacks and donations.

Many of them are will go to school in makeshift classrooms and churches, so she’s asking the community to help them get on their feet.

“My son lives in California, and although he’s not directly affected by the wildfires he and I would discuss it,” McGehee said. “I knew as a teacher the one way that I could impact students was to do donations of some kind.”

After asking for donations on Facebook, Shari collected 90 backpacks and 200 mesh athletic packs.

She sent them to California students who lost their homes and schools in the Camp Fire.

“My goal was to ship them out and have them in the student’s hands Jan. 7 when they got back to school at their new locations, they would at least have a backpack and supplies,” McGehee said.

Several locations in town, like this Chiropractic Clinic, were drop off locations for the backpack drive. Shari hopes that many will continue to help with this effort.

“There are three teachers that I’ve been in contact with in California that have started a web page, Facebook page, that they have linked directly with and Amazon and you can actually adopt a classroom,” McGehee said. 

To help you go to color a There you can offer to purchase things like grade level books, or simply buy something on a teacher’s Amazon wish list. 

“I can’t imagine as a teacher going back to school this year and not having the things that I’ve collected over the last 30 years,” McGehee said.

Some community members are already on board after hearing about the project. 

“Our Christmas party, our focus would be gathering donations for the wildfire victims,” Christine Lin said.

The Lin family collected $200 at their annual Christmas party and the children and their friends wrote special messages.

“‘Praying for you,'” Lin said. “‘You’re strong and you can get through this’. Just to let kids know ‘hey there are kids here in Conway, Arkansas routing for you.'”

This will be an ongoing effort because as Northern California works through the destroyed homes and school buildings.

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