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Students collecting items to help pets on coast

Many were lost, let loose or locked up and abandoned under by afrantic wave of people evacuating the coast as Hurricane Katrinaapproached. Now the pets, too, need help in recovering from thetragedy the storm wrought.

Fifty-seven seniors at Loyd Star Attendance Center are answeringthe pets’ howls and yowls for help.

“I love animals. Everyone is doing everything they can for thepeople and they are beginning to recover from the storm. But oftenthe pets have been overlooked and there are many down there thatare alone without their friends and family,” said Karen Rogers, whoteaches English IV at the school.

After watching a recent television newscast on the plight ofpets on the coast, Rogers approached her students with an idea fora senior project Monday morning. She asked how would they like toorganize a local community effort to help the animals affected bythe storm.

“Some of the students thought it was a joke at first because itjust came out of the blue,” said Hayley Britt, a student whorecognized immediately that Rogers was serious and is now helpingto organize the drive. “I think we’re all really excited about itnow.”

Once all the students realized she was serious, they all becomeinterested and involved, Rogers said.

“I have not required them to go, but I have not heard one sayyet they don’t want to go,” she said.

Senior Joey Ratcliff said the task the teacher and studentsdecided upon is daunting, but he is confident they can get itdone.

“It’s just another small step towards the big goal of recoveringthe coast. It’s a lot to do in two weeks but we’ll be able to doit,” he said.

The students are hoping when they leave for the coast on Dec. 15they will have an abundance of items pets there need.

“We’re going to take all the animal food and supplies that wecan gather in a few weeks,” Rogers said.

Officials at the Jackson County animal shelter told Rogers theyalso need pet medical supplies, cat litter, leashes and harnesses,flea collars and any other pet accessories that can be brought.

“We really need for the community to help for this to be asuccess,” Ratcliff said.

Fund-raisers for the trip will begin Dec. 9 on the Loyd Starcampus with a bake sale and fashion and talent show for studentsK-12. The event is limited to students and school faculty becauseit will occur during the school day.

“That’s to raise money here to get the student body and theirfamilies involved,” Rogers said.

The next day, the senior English students will man twocollection points to accept donations from the public. Thecollection points will be at MayFab Waste Management, behind HomeDepot, and La Magnolia restaurant in downtown Brookhaven. Thepoints will be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Daily drop-offs can be made at the school or at BrookhavenAnimal Clinic, Rogers said. In addition, people wishing to make acash donation or who need to have items picked up can call Rogersat the school at 833-3473 to arrange a time.

While on the coast, the students will also be helping animalshelter volunteers “doing whatever necessary” and may even assistthe American Red Cross at a food line, Rogers said.

“I think it will be a life-changing trip when they can see thedestruction firsthand and know they were actually able to dosomething to help,” she said.

Two of the seniors involved in the project moved heretemporarily following the storm, Rogers said. One student is fromNew Orleans and the other is from Gautier, where the shelter islocated.

“I didn’t know that in the beginning, but now it’s kind ofexciting,” Rogers said.

The student’s mother, who teaches in Gautier, will be taking theday off to be with the students during their trip. She returned toGautier when the school district reopened.

The trip home will likely be much noisier than the trip to thecoast since the shelter has relaxed its minimum-age adoption rulesto allow students with parental permission slips to adopt a petthere.

Some students have already received permission to bring homepets, Rogers said.