Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wolfe Street Academy Custodian Helps Haiti

On a damp Monday morning with the wind exceeding 40 knots, Jean Locklear was out sweeping the trash that slobs had dumped on the street over the weekend.

Jean Locklear is the custodian at Wolfe Street Academy, the little neighborhood school at Gough and Wolfe streets, and she has a strong sense of what should be done and how it should be done.

Therefore she was out in her shirtsleeves in a howling gale with broom and dustpan, because no matter what happens trash is not welcome at Wolfe Street Academy. The rain may be falling sideways and tree limbs might be creaking ominiously, but there is litter in the tree wells and on the sidewalk and that is just unacceptable.

Besides, the place has to look its best when children and staff—organized by (who else?) Jean Locklear, collect loose change and paper cash for Haitian relief at the end of this week.

“It’s terrible, and they need help,” says Locklear. All of the money collected will go to the Red Cross.

Students and staff will be in front of the school and at the corner of Wolfe and Gough streets from 7 a.m.-noon on Thursday and Friday, Jan. 28-29. They will have buckets to collect cash.

“We have some buckets with wide mouths so if the light is green people can toss change on the fly,” said Mark Gaither, principal of Wolfe Street Academy.

The Red Cross is providing aid and shelter to earthquake refugees, most of whom have been living outdoors since the earthquake struck on Tuesday, Jan. 12. The 7.0 earthquake was the worst in two centuries in the poverty-ridden Caribbean country, and many buildings collapsed in Port au Prince. Most of the rest of the buildings remaining in the capital are uninhabitable. It is a catastrophe.

You do what you can, so Jean Locklear, showing the mindset that sent her outside in a gale to sweep the sidewalk, went to WSA principal Mark Gaither to begin organizing a penny drive to help the Haitians.
Wolfe Street Academy is a preK-5 school where 93 percent of the students receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch. More than 50 percent of its students speak English as a second language. Very few WSA families are well-do-do. Big checks for Haiti might not be forthcoming at WSA, but loose change is a real possibility.

Gaither keeps a five-gallon water cooler jug in his office. He has told his students that he wants it to be so heavy by the end of the week that he can no longer fill it. It was about a quarter-full on Monday, with loose change, many singles and a five-dollar bill.

Every morning at breakfast he makes a big weight-lifter act of hoisting the bottle. He grunts and groans. The children laugh and go cadge some more money from Mom or Dad or the neighbors.
“I talked about money for Haiti at our Martin Luther King service day,” said Gaither. “Usually there is a lot of noise in the room when I make announcements, but this time they went quiet.” He made a flat motion with his hands and said a quiet “whoo.”

“I told them how proud I am of them. They understand how terrible it is there.”

People going to work can drive straight down Wolfe Street on Thursday and Friday morning and drop off a donation. Jean Locklear, and the children who understand that times can always get tougher, will be there to accept with a smile.

by Jacqueline Watts

From The Baltimore Guide, 10/27/2010