Education

Harrison County raises 2 million pennies for tornado-ravaged school district

Petal gets its pennies

School district officials discuss the importance of a donation drive for the Petal School District.
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School district officials discuss the importance of a donation drive for the Petal School District.

There’s been a whole lot of penny pinching going on in Harrison County.

For two weeks, the Harrison County School District has been collecting pennies, other money and supplies for its Pennies for Petal campaign. The donations will help the Petal School District recover from the Jan. 21 tornado.

Every school in the Harrison County School District competed to see who could raise the most money. North Woolmarket Elementary and Middle School won with $2,225. Pineville Elementary has only about 130 students but raised $1,400.

Papa John’s Pizza also pitched in by collecting 20 percent of a day’s proceeds for the district.

Harrison County Superintendent Roy Gill on Wednesday unveiled a final tally of 2,537,640 pennies. With the Papa John’s check, the total is $25,346.40.

The tornado damaged over 350 Petal homes and many businesses.

Petal Upper Elementary alone received more than $1.3 million in damage.

“It looked like a bomb had gone off,” Petal Superintendent Matthew Dillon said.

We know that when students return to school, there’s a sense of normalcy there. That’s where we want to be.

Matthew Dillon, Petal School District superintendent

“That one school alone had extensive damage, roof and water damage ... our Chromebooks, a lot of our technology and a host of other things suffered damage,” he said.

Since the storm, he said the recovery has moved as quickly as possible. In the meantime, rooms in a church have been converted into temporary classrooms.

“We know that when students return to school, there’s a sense of normalcy there. That’s where we want to be,” he said.

Dillon, a former resident of Saucier and teacher at West Wortham and Saucier elementary schools, has been friends with Gill and his family for years.

Gill said after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Harrison County was on the receiving end of donations from neighboring school districts.

“It’s just a blessing for us to be able to turn and pay it forward to our neighboring district,” Gill said.

Justin Vicory: 228-896-2326, @justinvicory

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