LUMBERTON — Those associated with the Public Schools of Robeson County today are basking in the sunlight that “Good Morning America” provided them and their struggle, and appreciative of gifts the show has already delivered — and those that still might come.
“The exposure is awesome. It’s letting people know that with community support we are picking up the pieces of our lives … It’s letting people know that we are still here,” said Angela Faulkner, principal at Lumberton Junior High School, from which parts of Thursday’s show were broadcast. The program highlighted the good and bad that came from the Oct. 8 visit by Hurricane Matthew.
Faulkner and three other educators, Tara Bullard, Felicia Hunt and Vicki McGuirt, were recognized in broadcast for their work helping students cope with life following the severe flooding that damaged or destroyed many of their homes.
Tasha Oxendine, a spokesperson for the schools, echoed Faulkner.
“The story revealed how staff members worked diligently above and beyond their average day to support students after Hurricane Matthew,” she said. “I believe the story brought light to the fact that the county is still in recovery and we have many families in need. Before the end of the day on Thursday, there was another large donation to several families and an offer from across the state of furniture to our school system. I hope others across the nation who saw the story will also say” ‘How can I help the people there in need?’”
Thursday’s broadcast focused on the Lumberton Junior High campus, where middle school students and elementary students displaced from West Lumberton Elementary School have attended classes together after three weeks of missed classes because of Matthew.
Faulkner and Bullard, the principal of West Lumberton Elementary School, worked together to welcome students to the junior high school when elementary students could not return to their school after the flood. The segment also showed how McGuirt and Hunt spent time locating displaced children and providing much needed comfort and support.
“It made me feel like I was safe there,” said one young student. “I didn’t have to worry about anything.”
The highlight of the broadcast came when 600 students, urged on by Rob Marciano, the show’s meteorologist, ran cheering onto the field and formed a giant heart.
“The kids really enjoyed doing this,” said Carol Floyd, a school social worker,
Marciano announced that Disney, ABC’s parent company, is going to pay for the building of a park in Lumberton. Also, Lowe’s Home Improvements donated $50,000 to the Parkview Activity Center for rebuilding of a park that was lost in the storm.
“This is great,” Faulkner told The Robesonian at the close of Thursday’s event. “This will be a park that will not just serve Lumberton Junior High School and West Lumberton Elementary School students. It will serve the whole community.”
John Campbell, a member of the Board of Education, added his thanks.
“I am always thankful for sunshine after the storms in our life,” he said. “The GMA effort and Disney effort was certainly sunshine for us. But may we remember all who have assisted in our recovery efforts and those who are still displaced from their homes, churches and communities.”
Linda Oxendine, public services director for Lumberton, said that hopefully the GMA broadcast will serve as “our golden ticket” to make people realize that “the recovery is not over, it is just beginning.”
“We still need donations and we still need volunteer groups to come in and help rebuild the homes of those most impacted by the hurricane,” she said.
Reach Bob Shiles at 910-416-5165 and Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.