LINWOOD – Helping the community is a tenet of the Renaissance program at Belhaven School and the school community is rolling up its sleeves to help the Houston Independent School District on the heels of Hurricane Harvey. Thursday the district kicked off the service learning project for the school-Texas Needs Our Help.

Fifth grade teacher Jennifer Bernadini is spearheading the effort and said the main goal is for families here to help families in Houston who are struggling to not just get their homes cleaned up but are struggling with getting life back to some measure of normal. A big part of normalcy is to have the schools up and running with the things students and teachers need. Bernadini said the hope is to fill a truck with supplies to send to HISD and those families in need.

“While the kids obviously saw the effects of Hurricane Harvey on TV, and they want to help but like so many of us; we struggle with how to help and what can once person do to help when there is so much need,” said Bernadini.

The kick off assembly for the project compared the world students know here at home with the students in the HISD. In Linwood two schools and about 850 students in the district and about 100 staff members with everyone speaking English.

Compare that to the HISD there are 250 schools with an excess of 218,000 students, 31,000 staff members and 10 different languages are spoken in the district according to Bernadini. “Just in sheer numbers it’s staggering to think of what to do when a number of the schools have been heavily damaged. Even if the school is open, much of what was in the classrooms got wet.”

The fifth grade teacher said she explained to the Belhaven students, just starting the year with fresh school supplies that schools in Houston were already back to school for three weeks. “While some of our kids are still picking up items they need for the school year, the kids in Houston have been back to school for weeks. All those pretty notebooks and markers, colored pencils were likely in their desks when Harvey came through. Classroom libraries were wiped out because mold will get everything,” said Bernadini.

Bernadini explained that because there will be teachers on the other end to receive the items coming from Linwood; it assures that everything donated will find its way to the schools to help Houston move forward.

Belhaven Principal Susan Speirs said she supports the effort to help educators and students in Houston. “Reaching out to help victims of Hurricane Harvey is in keeping with the Belhaven Renaissance tradition of building empathy and citizenship in our students. At a school assembly we discussed the devastation in Houston. Immediately after, the students wanted to know what they could do to help. We are pleased to be assisting schools in Texas that need help getting back up and running,” said the principal. She gave special recognition to Bernadini, the 2017 Teacher of the Year for spearheading the donation drive.

District Superintendent, Michelle Cappelluti supports the Help for Houston effort and said, “Our children are learning invaluable lessons as a result of these recent events. One of the most important being the awareness that it could happen to us right here and how incredibly important it is for us to help our neighboring states. Students learn that if everyone just gives one small item and a little bit of time, as a community this goes a long way. Our staff continues to play an important role in discussion with their students in all classes, and displaying pictures around the school that show how everyone is pitching in. It is our hope, also, that students gain a better perspective on how fortunate they are. We will continue service projects throughout the year.”

Through a connection at the Ocean City Library, items may be donated to the Help with Houston relief effort may be dropped at the library, 1735 Haven Avenue in Ocean City. Through Wednesday, Sept. 20 anyone who would like to donate supplies or gently used children’s books to help rebuild classroom libraries in Houston may drop off items at the Ocean City Library.

Belhaven students in fifth grade are asked to bring in crayons, colored pencils, and markers. Sixth grades students are asked to bring folders and composition books. Seventh grade students are asked to contribute dry erase markers, glue sticks and highlighters. The eighth grade students are asked to contribute pens (black, blue and red) along with pencils and erasers.

For a community wide effort they are asking for gently used books and monetary donations to help cover the cost of shipping.

Bernadini said other teachers have signed on to help with the project in including Amy Winterbottom, Allison Wrigley, and Mary Beth McKenna.

To get involved with the Help with Houston project for now and future service learning projects contact Bernadini at and for more on the Houston Independent School District visit

Drop off locations with bins for donated classroom items or a monetary donation are;

Belhaven Middle School, 5 Belhaven Avenue in Linwood

The Ocean City Library, 1735 Haven Ave. in Ocean City.

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