Noonan chose to donate school supplies to the district. She started by making calls to Florida news outlets, which agreed to interview her to help get the word out. She left donation boxes in local stores and restaurants. She went door to door, asking neighbors to make donations. She raised enough money to buy supplies, rent a delivery truck, pay for gas and buy two plane tickets to fly the volunteer drivers back.
The leftover supplies will be donated to West Elementary School, and a monetary donation will be made to the school to help rebuild the gym floor, which was damaged in the storm.
The residents of North Port were only too happy to help, Noonan said — especially on something done in her husband’s memory. “We miss him,” she said. “We wanted to do something good in his memory.”
When Michael died in June, residents of their former hometown of Point Lookout “stepped up” for Mary and her sons, she said. They supported her in her time of need, and she wanted to do the same for them. “Paying it forward is the best way to live your life,” she said.
Northport residents also had reason to pay it forward. In 2004, Hurricane Charley devastated their area. Volunteers from the Point Lookout-Lido Fire Department drove a camper full of supplies to Florida, and stayed to helped clean up and clean out houses.
Noonan’s sisters, Deidre Rodriguez and Leah Herbert, helped her coordinate the effort in Long Beach. They called, emailed and used social media to get the word out. The parents who came on Monday were appreciative of the help, they said.
“[Students] are back in school, and it’s becoming a necessity for them to have these things so they can learn,” Rodriguez said.
Kids ran from box to box, picking out backpacks and notebooks. Some took supplies for their friends who weren’t there. “I got things for my teachers,” said student Emma Herbert. “We really need dry erase markers in the classroom.”
For those who are still looking to help, Board of Education President Roy Lester suggested donating directly through the district’s website, www.lbeach.org, which now uses PayPal to facilitate donations. Donors also have the option of targeting their donation to a specific effort, like rebuilding a classroom or sponsoring an athletic team.