Lanier Primary School was for a long time a place of learning, one normally closed on Saturday but there are exceptions. Last Saturday was one of those.
It was a day of learning but unfortunately it was not a day of academic learning. The lessons taught Saturday, however, were important. Perhaps more important than anything to be found in a book.
The lesson learned was how man can be kind, care for and love his fellow man regardless of any differences they may otherwise have.
The occasion was Bryan County Family Connection’s North Bryan Tornado Relief Resource Event held at Lanier to distribute needed foodstuffs, clothing, personal hygiene items, etc., to those in need as a result of the tornado which ripped through the Pembroke-Ellabell area last Tuesday evening.
No one section of the socio-economic ladder was spared as evidenced by those who showed up to gratefully pick up needed items. The event started at 9 a.m. and ran to 5 p.m. and there were hundreds served.
A look at a packed parking lot at noonish showed newer luxury vehicles such as a sparkling Cadillac SUV and an old Pontiac G6 that looked to be held together by baling wire and everything in between. After the tornado their owners were all the same with the same needs.
A storm such as this one is a great equalizer.
One of those picking up necessities, primarily baby items such as formula, diapers and clothing items was Melanie Byrd of Pembroke.
As volunteers Lynne Bayens of Richmond Hill and Kevin Taylor of Ellabell loaded several boxes into the trunk of her car, Byrd expressed thanks for the assistance for the young mother who needed help.
Byrd was there to pick up the needed items for Anya Anderson and her 2-month-old child. Anderson, because of work obligations, could not come herself.
“None of this is for me,” Byrd said. “I didn’t have any damage. The storm didn’t come close to me. There might have been a limb in my yard. Our house was spared thank God.”
Anderson was not so fortunate. She was staying in a motel when Byrd took her into her home. A motel, Byrd said, was not a place for a mother with a young baby to be staying.
“She’s my husband’s niece,” Byrd said. “She was on her first day at work of a new job when the storm hit. I was babysitting the baby that day.
“When I heard she was in a motel I went and got her. I’ve got room in my house and it’s the Christian thing to do. She couldn’t come today because she had to work.”
Another family member was sitting with the baby in the car. It should be noted Byrd was picking up only the items needed.
“We don’t need food,” Byrd said. “We are just getting what the baby needs and some things (mainly underclothes) Anya needs.
“I couldn’t believe it when I looked at the city the next day,” Byrd said. “It was not the city I saw every day. It’s terrible but it restores your faith to see people helping others like this.”
Bayens, a realtor in Richmond Hill, had started her day at Ellabell United Methodist Church before getting to Lanier. She was caringly showing Byrd items she had selected for the baby, i.e., dresses, socks, etc., and explaining the types of baby formula included.
“I’m a shopper so this is right up my alley,” Bayens said. “They give us a list: sizes, number in the family and what they need and I get it.”
With that information Bayens went through LPS which was literally a warehouse of items and selected what she needed and then put it together for the recipient.
Taylor lives in the subdivision surrounding Black Creek Golf Course which was heavily damaged but he said his house escaped unscathed.
“What they’ve got (donations) in the building is mind blowing,” Taylor said. “I’ve been here since 9 a.m. and it’s been a steady stream. My house wasn’t touched but I had neighbors whose homes were damaged. We’ve got an obligation to help these people. These are not handouts.”
Every room in the school was filled and each room had signage denoting what was in the room. For example, one room had pet food, another canned goods, another men’s clothing, another women’s clothing and so forth.
The gymnasium was set up with sleeping cots as it was used as a shelter and the cafeteria was lined buffet style with food, much of it home cooked and brought to the school. Showers were available.
“Donations have come from everywhere,” Bryan County Family Connections Executive Director Wendy Futch said. “People in Richmond Hill have brought a lot, so have people from surrounding counties and from all over Georgia. We’ve also got a lot of stuff from other states.”