‘The school has won my heart’

By on November 7, 2019

A church’s generosity and the Ocracoke School 

Susan Peoples, in the blue shirt, and Onie Mae, in the blue vest, brought a special gift to the school (Photo Credit: Connie Leinbach)

School let out a little early on Wednesday, Nov. 6 on Ocracoke for the second, third and fourth graders, two dozen children who shuffled out of the schoolhouse and gathered around a picnic table under a big tree in the yard.

Curious, the children sat quietly as PTA Chair Laura McClain, herself a mother of one of the youngsters, explained that two women from Franklin County had come to bring them all a special gift in the form of a $6,000 contribution.

“You guys know that normally the PTA has a big carnival,” McClain began. “And that carnival is a big fundraiser for us.” She explained that the fundraiser usually raises money for teachers to spend on school supplies, helps pay for the Christmas program, funds a college scholarship program for a high school graduate, and pays for the high schoolers’ annual trip to Washington, D.C.

But this fall, due to lasting damage from Hurricane Dorian, the school was not able to have its carnival, which usually raises between eight and ten thousand dollars, McClain told the Voice.

Without the fundraiser, the school would have been in some trouble. “But these two lovely ladies went back to their church and told everybody about Ocracoke and how we missed out on this fundraiser and how our teachers and school needs help. And they asked people in their church for money and they came here today to give it to us so that we can help fund all the things that we need,” McClain said.

The two women, Susan Peoples and Onie Mae, beamed as a loud chorus of “Thank You” filled the schoolyard.

“I went back and talked to [the members of] the church about how much we loved Ocracoke and showed them a slideshow of what the situation was. And I said, ‘the school has won my heart and we need to help them’,” Peoples explained.

Peoples is a member of the Louisburg Baptist Church, and Mae is from the Oak Grove Baptist Church in Youngsville, Franklin County. All of the funds came from the Louisburg church; Mae is a friend of Peoples and came along to Ocracoke to support her.

Both women came to the island after Dorian with the organization Baptists on Mission, although they were not representing that group yesterday. Peoples began volunteering with disaster relief projects after Hurricane Katrina. She went to New Orleans for two weeks to rebuild a youth minister’s damaged house and has been volunteering ever since.

“We have just fallen in love with your community and your school,” Peoples told the children. “This is only the beginning. We will be back. Every time I get on that ferry and see the lighthouse, I’m sending you big loves, big hugs, and lots of prayers.”

McClain then presented Peoples and Mae with two T-shirts from the Ocracoke Preservation Society, because “you all are definitely helping us preserve what Ocracoke is all about.”

Peoples said she didn’t organize an official fundraiser at the church and was surprised by the amount of money she raised. “I figured we would maybe get a few hundred.

But we have a very generous church at Louisburg Baptist.”

As the kids played on the jungle gym and peeled off on their bicycles, McClain explained she wanted the children to see Peoples and Mae handing over the check, not just “see the money showing up. I want them to understand that people had to pull things together.”

In the meantime, Peoples said she will be back at Christmas to provide more aid.

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