Students from 2 Michiana schools fundraise for students impacted by hurricane

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LAPORTE, Ind. (WNDU) - People in the Florida Panhandle are still recovering from Hurricane Michael.

With Just 13 days until Christmas, two Indiana schools are making sure families have some of what they need.

In a letter to parents, one school announced a new initiative.

“Lincoln School is kicking off a service project. Kids helping kids," Natalie McGhee said as she read the letter aloud.

Natalie is a fourth-grade student at Lincoln Elementary in LaPorte. She and her peers decided to go beyond this holiday season.

“Our fourth- and fifth-graders are working with Cleveland Elementary School in Elkhart, Indiana, to collect warm clothing items, blankets and money donations," Natalie read.

Back in October, the students at Lincoln were learning about severe weather. That’s when Hurricane Michael hit the Florida Panhandle.

“During our unit, we saw some of the destruction on our smart board, and we were talking about it and then Mrs. O said look at all that destruction, and then I simply asked, ‘How can we help?” explained Alan Mendez, a fourth-grade student at Lincoln Elementary.

Lincoln fourth-grade teacher Shelly Otwinowski reached out to her friend and fellow teacher Susan Law in Elkhart. Law’s mother lives in the Panhandle and contacted a local school.

“These kiddos have stepped up and have cared about the lives of students, not in their town, not right by them, not just a friend," said Law, third-grade teacher at Cleveland Elementary.

“When people are grieving, compassion is the best teaching tool we can use," Otwinoswki said.

“I donated some clothes and some money," said Xitlaly Garcia, a third-grader at Cleveland.

“I donated $9, so I got three bracelets," said Aidan O'Brien, a third-grade student at Cleveland.

All donations will go to families at Oakland Terrace Elementary School in Panama City, Florida. Otwinowski plans to deliver them next week.

Before the storm, Principal Bryan Long said his school had about 360 students; now, it’s about 260.

“They’re driving, you know, 45 minutes, each direction to bring their kids back to school because their houses are demolished," Long said. "So, for somebody as far away as Indiana to reach out to our students to help them out when they need it the most, it’s been a blessing."

Lincoln Elementary and Cleveland Elementary are selling bracelets that read "#850Strong" and "#PanamaCityStrong." They’re also accepting donations through the week. If you’d like to donate, contact the school closest to you.

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Lincoln Elementary in LaPorte: 219-362-3755
Cleveland Elementary in Elkhart: 574-262-5580
Oakland Terrace Elementary in Panama City, FL: 850-767-4565