They say that going through a trauma or trial can often make us more empathetic to other people’s suffering. We’ve been there. We’ve felt what they’re feeling. And we want to help.
So when 13-year-old Lucca Yonushonis woke up the morning after Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana, he found himself reliving the trauma his family had endured when Hurricane Harvey crippled Houston and displaced thousands of families who lost everything they owned.
“I saw pictures of a school that had been flooded, but on top of that, the roof had blown completely off,” said Lucca. “They lost everything, including every single book in their library. The whole school had to be gutted and everything removed due to mold. That was it. I wanted to help. The way I saw it, people had helped me when I lost everything in Harvey, so I wanted to help them.”
Lucca’s mom Kerry, a social worker who knows the go-to people who organize relief efforts, connected Lucca with Cara Adams, founder of the non-profit organization Texas Relief Warriors. After Harvey, Cara had created a Facebook page called Hurricane Moms to help rebuild the community. Started single-handedly, it has grown to 1000 women strong, all pulling together for relief efforts and providing supplies to those who have lost their homes and belongings.
Lucca also started as a one-man show; he began by donating his own books, but clearly, it would take more. As a Student Council member at Briarwood School, Lucca asked if he could place boxes around the school and hold a book drive. Soon, the boxes were full and he decided to spread his efforts out to the larger community.
“I went to local businesses where we are customers,” he said. “I told them about my goal and asked if I could leave boxes at their business. We really wanted it to be a community effort where small, local businesses could get involved.”
One business that stepped up in a big way was Mrs. Donuts on Memorial Drive. A Christian-owned and operated store, Mrs. Donuts’ walls are filled with scripture and inspirational quotes. Kerry found herself in tears the day they arrived to ask if the store would allow a collection box. “I walked in, and there on the wall was a quote I had written just after the devastation of Harvey. It brought everything back. I’m choked up right now just thinking about it. I remember at the time the media saying that needs were being met, but we were displaced for a year and a half, and we knew the reality. There are always more needs.”
The store not only agreed to help, but offered to provide free donuts to anyone who donated. To get the word out, Lucca made videos for the Memorial Eats Facebook page, and the publicity worked. Over 1,000 books were collected at that one donut shop alone!
By the end of the month-long drive, Lucca had collected over 4,000 books to completely restock Carver Elementary School in DeRidder. All that was left was to make the delivery to a delighted principal.
“When I called Principal PJ Crowe, she was so happy,” said Kerry. “In order to keep this a community effort, we are personally loading the truck and delivering the books, and she has arranged to have police officers come and unload.”
Lucca and his family drove all the books to Carver this past Saturday and left knowing that they had accomplished something no one would have ever expected.
“There really can’t be enough volunteers in the world,” Lucca said. “There’s always going to be some disaster, and I’d love to see people get out and help each other.”