This summer, after two violent storms ripped through Western Massachusetts, I almost couldn't believe what I saw: homes ripped apart, schools and businesses damaged beyond repair, and the news that we'd lost neighbors and friends.
It shook us all to the core as we tried to grasp how something like this could happen in our state. But almost immediately Massachusetts pulled together and began rebuilding homes and lives.
On the morning after the storms, I visited the statewide command center for the response and I saw an amazing sight, one I'll always remember; a line of emergency vehicles from nearly every town and city in the state, all volunteering to help. I was personally struck by how quickly everyone launched into action to help family, friends and even strangers, in any way they could.
We've made progress in rebuilding and the dust has settled a bit, but there are many people who need our help as much today as they did two months ago. While the big things like getting federal relief, loans and disaster assistance always get lots of attention, there are also small, but important steps and gestures we can all take that will go a long way.
For example, in Springfield the storms wreaked havoc on two elementary schools - Dryden and Brookings - forcing many children into three other elementary schools in the city. With all these extra students in three already full schools, I knew they could use some extra books, so we turned to the Surplus Book Program at the Library of Congress and we organized the delivery of books to the elementary schools back in Springfield. I know this is a small gesture, but I think anything that makes even a little bit of a difference in this difficult time is worth it.
Our neighbors need us all right now - and there are a lot of small ways to continue supporting them while our state slowly continues to recover and rebuild.
The Mary A. Dryden Veterans Memorial School and the Elias Brookings School each will operate out of portable classrooms, or pods, for the next two years, and are essentially starting from scratch, so any donation suitable for use in a K-5 classroom would be greatly appreciated. If you have children's books, school supplies, or art supplies you would like to donate, please drop them off at Springfield College, which has strong ties to each school. Through the Partners and BLAST (Brookings Learning and Support Team) programs and the college's annual Humanics in Action Day, Springfield College students provide a wide range of services to Brookings and Dryden school children, including mentoring and tutoring.
Now they're committed to making sure these kids have the supplies they need as they're heading back to school.
You can mail or drop off donations in the Office of Student Volunteer Programs, Room 350, of the Richard B. Flynn Campus Union at Springfield College, 263 Alden Street. Donations will be accepted Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. Afterhours donations can be arranged by calling the office at 413-748-3394.
A detailed list of requested donations, compiled by teachers and parents from Brookings and Dryden, is available on my website http://kerry.senate.gov/work/question/ .
I know it's been a difficult summer, but our state is bouncing back because our citizens always pull together when times are tough. Together, we're going make sure that Massachusetts rebuilds, and that our state is stronger than ever before.