Edward Thutt was the connection, the flooding after Hurricane Matthew was the catalyst, but the compassion belonged to high school students in Forsyth County who wanted to do something to help their peers in Kinston.
The 40 boxes of toiletries and school supplies delivered to Kinston High School on Friday represented the “legwork” done by students at Ronald Reagan High School after Thutt pointed them to an opportunity to help the town where he grew up and the high school where he graduated in 1995.
“When I grew up in Kinston, we lived through Hurricane Hugo. When I was in college, we had Hurricane Fran. When I was a first-year teacher we had Hurricane Floyd and I saw all the damage that was done,” said Thutt, who teaches environmental science and anatomy and is assistant athletic director at Ronald Reagan, a high school of about 1,900 students.
“I was down in Kinston during Hurricane Matthew for my sister’s wedding and I knew what kind of difficulties the town was going to face after that. I heard from my dad they were using the high school as a shelter and so many students had lost their homes,” he said.
As with the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd 17 years ago, flood waters from the Neuse River and its tributaries, swollen by Matthew's torrential rains, spilled across highways into many sections of Lenoir County, including neighborhoods where Kinston High students lived. Schools were closed for 10 days as the flood waters rose, crested and finally receded, leaving hundreds of home uninhabitable and hundreds of students displaced.
With support from his principal, Thutt raised the idea of a charitable campaign among students. They took off with it, he said.
“I came up with the idea. The students did the legwork. They decided what they wanted to collect because kids know what kids need,” he said. “They decided to collect school supplies and toiletries with the thought that if it’s January or February and (Kinston students) don’t have any notebook paper, they don’t have to worry about where to get notebook paper. It will be there for them.”
On Friday, it was there, neatly packed into boxes stuffed into two SUVs driven to Kinston High by Thutt and his father, Joe, a retired pharmacist in Kinston.
It was all collected in a week, Edward Thutt said. “It’s several thousand items.”
Kinston High principal Brian Corey said the donations will be distributed to KHS students and families affected by the flood.
“I would like to thank Edward Thutt and Ronald Reagan High School for their act of kindness,” Corey said. “It is uplifting to know that students across our state are concerned about our students and their families.”
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