Mending a city a book at a time
After recalling their own harrowing experience with a hurricane, two brothers begin a book drive to help a school ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.
By CHUIN-WEI YAP
Published August 3, 2006
LAND O'LAKES - As they watched the images of despair unfold on television, of thousands of huddled masses at New Orleans' beleaguered Superdome, one memory returned to haunt Trevor and Taylor Lloyd.
It was of themselves barely a year earlier, in their mother's Temple Terrace house, deprived of electricity by the fury of Hurricane Ivan and eventually left homeless for three weeks.
"We had to stay at friends' houses," said Taylor, 13, who attends Liberty Middle School in New Tampa. "We had to leave our dog behind in a house without electricity for three weeks."
As they later sat with their mother watching the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the boys knew they had to do something.
"We wanted to find a way we could help," said Trevor, 15, who attends Freedom High School in New Tampa. "We figured the schools must be out of stuff."
So began the Land O'Lakes boys' Katrina book drive.
Searching on the Internet, the brothers came up with a shortlist of 10 schools and began calling them, one by one. Most could not be reached.
But when they got to Peta LeBlanc, principal of New Orleans' Dwight D. Eisenhower Elementary School, they heard a plaintive plea that stopped them in their tracks.
"Please stop calling (the others)," she begged. "We need your help."
Shut down after Katrina, the school is struggling to get back its students, supplies and books. Celeste Ancar, the school librarian, sent the Lloyd brothers a wish list of books:
The Planets In Our Solar System. The Cat In The Hat. Rookie Read-Aloud Science Grades K-2.
The school's most pressing need was for Webster's Third Grade dictionaries.
Trevor and Taylor enlisted aid from their father, Derek Lloyd, a Land O'Lakes automotive businessman.
In turn, he got the Rotary Club of Land O'Lakes involved. Word of mouth spread. Links were added to Web sites. Fellow Rotarians slapped fliers advertising the book drive on their store fronts.
Four drop-off locations were set up: AmSouth Bank on Collier Parkway, Gulf Coast Tractor and Equipment on U.S. 41, Deer Creek Sporting Clays on Ehren Cutoff and MOV-N-ON Hair Design in New Port Richey.
The boys worked in tandem.
Trevor, the one who wants to be a sports agent, the one who's a member of his school's Future Business Leaders of America club, became the frontman who would give a flawless 5-minute presentation at a Rotary Club meeting to update members on the project.
Taylor, the one whose voice softens when he speaks of their dog that died, the one with dreams of becoming a veterinarian, became the backstop who would write out their goals and cold-call the schools.
Then the bags came in.
"Bags and bags," Taylor said. "Thirty, 40 books at a time. Two bags sometimes. Five bags sometimes."
"We thought, 'This is the starting point,' " Trevor said.
The brothers gave up some favorite reads of their own, including all their Harry Potters and Animorphs.
They set a goal of 2,500 books. They now have about 500 piled in their dad's home, with another 1,300 due to be collected.
With $1,000 raised from Rotary International and the local Rotary Club, the Lloyds plan to buy the rest of what the Eisenhower school needs.
On Friday night, the Lloyds are planning to get into a truck with the books, toys and supplies they've amassed, to make the 10-hour drive to New Orleans.
A caravan of Rotarians will follow, and by Sunday night, they should have returned.
They already have one fan.
"I lost my house, car and principalship all in one day," LeBlanc wrote in an e-mail to the boys' father in January. "Our children were scattered across the country, and our schools were all closed. ... I cannot express what support like yours means to those of us trying to get our city back and running."
She probably won't be seeing the last of the Lloyds on Saturday.
"We'll do more," Trevor said. "It's a good feeling to help people out."
WEST PASCO WATERING RESTRICTIONS
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PORT RICHEY: Once a week, either before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. on designated day.
DESIGNATED WATERING DAYS:
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NEW PORT RICHEY: Even-numbered addresses may water on Tuesday and Saturday; odd-numbered addresses on Wednesday and Sunday, before 9 a.m. or after 7 p.m.
Note: You may only water once on your designated day.