MOORE — When an EF5 tornado swept through Moore, last year, the storm leveled two elementary schools: Briarwood and Plaza Towers. Now the Lions of Oklahoma are helping the schools rebuild, one classroom at a time.
After the disaster, donations from around the world began pouring in to the Lions Club International Foundation, totaling around $600,000. Troy Jenkins, the chair of the Oklahoma Lions Disaster Relief Committee, was overwhelmed by the generosity.
“It was a big deal,” said Jenkins. “We said, ‘Well, let’s get out there and help where we can.’”
They started addressing the most immediate needs, replacing school supplies and playground equipment. But they had the funds to do more, so the committee asked Shelley Jaques-McMillin, the principal of Briarwood Elementary, what she really wanted.
“Half our classrooms had Redcats before the storm,” said Jaques-McMillin, referring to a classroom audio system from Lightspeed Technologies. “We really missed them this year, and I didn’t think we would ever get them back.”
Members of the disaster relief committee observed the Redcat in action at another school, and they came back impressed. By wearing a small microphone around their neck, a teacher’s voice was projected evenly throughout the room via a portable speaker, making it easier for students to pay attention and stay on task.
The team encouraged the Lions Club International Foundation to approve the donation, and on May 8, 28 Redcats were delivered to Briarwood — enough for every classroom in the school.
“When I let the teachers know that the Redcats had arrived, they were here unpacking them and putting on the little microphones immediately,” said Jaques-McMillin. “You should have seen it — they were just hugging and kissing the boxes. I heard one teacher say, ‘I missed you, Redcat.’”
In total, 57 Redcats were donated to the two schools. Plaza Towers plans to begin using them in the fall, but Jaques-McMillin said Briarwood’s teachers didn’t want to wait another day.
“Our teachers lost everything, and the Oklahoma Lions gave a little piece back to them. It’s helping to heal their hearts and their souls,” she said.