By Ben Rodgers
DE PERE – A local teacher was brought to tears when she learned of a fundraising effort to help her family.
Lourain Eggart, a Spanish teacher at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School, was presented a with a symbolic check on Friday, Nov. 3, for more than $4,000 raised from fundraising to help victims of Hurricane Maria.
“I’m very, very blessed teaching you guys everyday,” Eggart told the student body with tears in her eyes. “I’m very, very thankful to be who I am and being able to teach you guys everyday.”
Our Lady of Lourdes is a private school with 181 students from pre-k to 8th grade. The student body includes children from Ashwaubenon, Howard, Suamico and Hobart.
The students raised the money with a penny war, paying not to wear their uniforms for a day, and with donations from parents.
Jeff Young, principal, mentioned an 8th grader who donated all the money she received on her birthday to the cause.
“At the end of the day you’re looking to raise good citizens that care for one another,” Young said. “That’s just as important as math, reading and science.”
He also told the students that no matter the size of the effort, people can come together to accomplish great things.
“The small things do have an impact and can make a difference in the lives of others,” Young said.
Eggart worked on fundraising efforts with the students, but had no idea the money raised would be this much.
Eggart grew up in Puerto Rico, in Sabana Hoyos, a town in the municipality of Arecibo on the northern shore of the island. She moved to Wisconsin her sophomore year of high school.
With the move, she left behind her extended family.
When Eggart grew up hurricanes like George and Andrew were more fun than anything else.
She compared it to a snow day here, but without power or water. Hurricanes meant stocking up on unhealthy food, using a candle for light and being outside by the river with friends and family, because that’s where they would wash their clothes.
Because Maria hit only two weeks after Irma, supplies were not as plentiful on the island this time around.
“I was constantly in touch with my grandma, my aunts, my mom’s side of the family, my dad’s side of the family, my friends … I did that through the day of the storm,” Eggart said.
Then for a week she didn’t hear anything.
“The first call I got was in the evening and it was from my cousin’s wife,” she said. “‘I don’t have a lot of signal, but I want to tell you we’re OK,’ but when I asked about the home she said they lost everything.”
In the aftermath her cousin waited in line for two days to get the natural gas for his family.
The hospital she was born is in gone. Streets she played on as a child are destroyed. Her family is now six people living in a house that lost half its roof.
FEMA likely won’t help with rebuild, as the property was handed down through generations and there is no deed or blueprints.
Some of the money raised at Our Lady of Lourdes will go to help her family and some will go to the local parish there.
“I couldn’t help physically, but that this community came together to help means a lot,” Eggart said.