Middletown Area teachers band together to help flood victim
By Debra Schell
Press And Journal Staff
Yvonne Helmer and her grandson Daunte Cruz came home after the flood to discover there was little left.
“The first thing we saw was my grandson’s teddy bear,” Helmer said.
The bear was lying in the smelly floodwaters that swamped her home in Jednota Flats, Lower Swatara Twp.
Daunte got the Build-A-Bear, dressed in a Pittsburgh Steelers T-shirt, on their last visit to Virginia Beach.
About the same time, Jessica Hoopes, a first grade teacher at Fink Elementary School, along with a few teachers, visited the devastated areas and found Daunte with his family.
The moment touched Hoopes, said Helmer.
“She [Hoopes] said to another teacher, ‘Write that down, we will take care of that,’ about the bear,” said Helmer.
“Most of his toys, all of his books, they were all there in raw sewage,” she said.
Hoopes is just one of many Middletown Area School District teachers who volunteered to give to their students, who had just lost everything from the flood.
Hoopes remembers that specific moment because it’s when she realized how devastating the flood was to her students and their families.
“It all happened very fast. We knew we had to do something,” said Hoopes.
Helmer said she was impressed that the teachers got out of their vehicles, wearing boots, and walked through the water and muck to talk to her and see the damage.
Daunte has been a special-needs child since he was born and couldn’t speak until the age of 4, Helmer said.
“We had so many books to help him, and they were all lost in the flood,” she said.
“She [Hoopes] grabbed him and gave him a hug and a kiss,” said Helmer.
That wasn’t all Hoopes did, she said.
Hoopes picked up clothing, school supplies, and other household needs for the family at the Main Street Gym, where a donation center was set up to help flood victims replace what they lost. There, Hoopes found clothing for Daunte.
“She found him two shirts with Steelers on them, and a shirt that had Virginia Beach on it,’ said Helmer.
“She knew about Daunte and she went and took the time to find clothing specifically for him,” she said. “She went above and beyond what her responsibilities as a teacher, and when he got back to school, there was a Steelers bear waiting for him.”
Helmer and her family are staying in a hotel and looking for a place to live.
“It’s rough,” she said.
The family isn’t alone.
Hoopes said 15 to 20 families from Fink were affected by the flood.
“There are lots of acts of kindness by teachers,” said Hoopes.
“In a building like ours, it’s so small, and it hit us all pretty hard,” she said.
Teachers like Hoopes made phone calls, contacted students and parents, and did what they could to get clothing, cleaning products, and food to the families.
“We are very close, like a family here, it was nice to be able to help them,” Hoopes said.
Debra Schell: 717-944-4628, or firstname.lastname@example.org