Charter Schools USA served 700 free meals on Aug. 24 to the East Baton Rouge Parish community to provide relief for families affected by recent record-breaking flooding.
The charter school group also raised $30,000 through its nonprofit, the Giving Tree Foundation, for its teachers affected by flooding in August.
Richard Page, the charter schools group's executive vice president of development, said more than 30 schools in the Charter Schools USA system donated money to the relief fund.
Jonathan Hage, founder of Charter Schools USA, said he and his wife, Sherry Hage, are matching the $30,000 raised to bring more relief to communities affected.
Teachers who dealt with flooding in their homes were given the opportunity to sit down and tell their stories to the Hages; Raquel Ayles, Charter Schools USA's regional director of education; Georgette Sterling, the charter school system's regional compliance manager for Louisiana; and Baton Rouge Charter Academy Principal Talé Lockett.
After telling their stories, each teacher was handed $500 in cash as a surprise gift from Charter Schools USA.
Kim Ferguson, a teacher at Iberville Charter Academy, sat down at the small table in Baton Rouge Charter Academy’s gym and spoke of how she woke at 4 a.m. to neighborhood streets flooding.
“I think I was in denial,” said Ferguson, when asked why she didn’t immediately leave her home on Breeden Drive.
Ferguson eventually evacuated her home, but her house sustained major water damage, and she lost the majority of her and her son’s possessions.
After Jonathan Hage handed her the envelope containing her gift, Ferguson was overcome with emotion.
“I don’t even know if I want to take it,” said Ferguson, wiping away tears.
Other teachers had similar reactions to their gifts, some simply in disbelief.
Katina Henderson, a teacher at the academy, questioned if it was real.
“It’s not money. It’s love,” Sherry Hage said. “We want you to know that you’re loved and cared for.”
“These are our teachers; these are our kids,” Jonathan Hage said. “This is honestly the best part about what we do.”
“We need more love and hope,” Jonathan Hage added, saying he got “chill bumps” from the stories he heard from teachers on Wednesday.
Page stressed that all of the charter system's schools in Louisiana are open and operating.
“We’re blessed that all our schools [in the area] were OK,” Page said.