Soon after a flash flood struck Connellsville, Mrs. Jenna Hixson was planning on ways to help those whose homes were destroyed and their lives devastated.
“I can’t even begin to imagine the shock of something like that happening and how people lost homes, lost photographs, lost everything they’ve worked so hard for,” said Mrs. Hixson. “So I just wanted to be able to do something to help with that.”
Tragedy struck the town of Connellsville in the month of August when the waters rose above their expectations and damaged homes, streets, and the hearts of the victims affected.
Connellsville School District postponed their start of the year because of damage to the high school. In addition, numerous computers were ruined beyond repair.
Some Connellsville area residents not only lost their belongings and also pictures, jewelry and clothing.
Some of the people were lucky to make it by with little flood damage but others were not so lucky with their homes being decimated.
But not far away, a local high school would lend a hand to their competition.
Mrs. Hixson decided to start a fundraiser to help raise money for nine families who lost everything because of the flood. With little time left, she and her fellow group of volunteers organized the benefit for the people of Connellsville.
“I started tossing around ideas, then (senior) Alex Busato was actually the person who came up with the final idea for a cupcake sale to raise money,” Mrs. Hixson said. “I’d say we got it done in a little less than a week.”
The volunteers wore their shirts to help get the word out and to make people aware of the many victims that need help. Mr. Chris Pollard and his students created the t-shirts with Busato’s design on them, the art council made posters and signs, and the athletic department donated things to serve as prizes for the games that would help raise money.
That week of work paid off with $900 being donated from various games and the selling of homemade cupcakes. Mrs. Hixson plans on giving each family a $100 gift card to Lowes to start rebuilding their homes or to gather essential supplies.
During the first football game of the season, spectators could “adopt” a family and donate things that were on that family’s wish list, in order to help them get back on their feet. Mrs. Hixson’s volunteers sold cupcakes at the games and had games to raise money.
They also had a game similar to “Punch a Bunch” on the Price is Right in order to raise money. With cupcakes and a whole lot of spirit left, Mrs. Hixson donated the leftover cupcakes to Frick emergency room, the ambulance drivers, a nursing home, and several other places.
“It just amazes me the amount of students that we have here on the second week of school. In pouring down rain they’re willing to volunteer. So it makes me feel very fortunate to work at this school and be a part of this family and community,” said Mrs. Hixson.
The fundraiser could not have been possible if it wasn’t for the volunteers, Mrs. Hixson said, adding that on such short notice “many people flocked to help strangers in another town, regardless of who they were; background, race, or education.”
The students involved in the making of the charity shed light onto their experience.
“It feels good to give back to the community,” said senior Elise Proch.
Since Mrs. Hixson’s arrival, she has started several clubs dedicated to volunteering after school and regularly hands out flyers for volunteering outside of school.
One of Mrs. Hixson’s clubs being O.A.K, or “Organized Acts of Kindness,” make sunshine boxes for people who need a little sunshine in life to brighten up their day. She also has a program at the Primary Center next to the high school, where she and her students read to the children every Friday after school.
“The idea to volunteer came to me first when I was little,” Mrs. Hixson said. “My mom was always very willing to drive me around places. We lived in Donegal, but she would drive me the whole way to Children’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to volunteer, and she would just sit there and hang out while I volunteered and then she would bring me home. So she was always very supportive.”
Hixson is passing on her love for volunteering to her students. Many of her students say they have a tight knit bond between them like family and would do anything for anyone and put countless hours of work into their ideas and dreams.
“She’s a normal mom and a school mom, and she is the best at both of those,” said senior Kaylee Brosius, an OAK.
With the families in mind, Mrs. Hixson plans on selling t-shirts with all the money going to Connellsville Flood Relief.
“I can’t even remember the first time I volunteered,” said Mrs. Hixson. “It’s just something I’ve always known to be a part of me.”
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