By JOANNE FOX
As news about a July 19 tornado that barreled through Marshalltown, Iowa, was publicized, Dawn Prosser of Storm Lake wondered if there was a Catholic school in the community, some 160 miles away in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
“I knew that Marshalltown had similar demographics as Storm Lake – much diversity and varying socioeconomics,” she said. “My husband (Deacon Mark Prosser) confirmed there was a Catholic school.”
As development director of both Storm Lake St. Mary Parish and Schools, Prosser thought taking up a collection for St. Francis School might have merit.
“I surmised this would be the kind of project that Ryan Berg, our new 6-12 principal, would have taken on during the school year with his student council while he was a moderator,” she said. “I contacted Mr. Berg and our preK-5 principal Diane Jones and they both immediately said, ‘Yes, let’s have a little cash drive with the students and see where it goes.’”
In the meantime, Prosser went online to discover Dr. Matt Herrick serves as principal of the preK-6 school.
“At this time, I didn’t even know if they would have internet or phones or what kind of damage the school might have,” she said. “In a day or so, Dr. Herrick sent a quick e-mail to me noting that the school and parish escaped damage from the tornado, but the central part of the community suffered the most damage where the lower-income families lived – those who needed the most help.”
The EF3 tornado – with winds of about 144 mph – ripped through Marshalltown at 4:40 p.m., July 19. In a matter of minutes, hundreds of homes, businesses and the county courthouse were damaged in this town of 27,000 people, a bit larger than Storm Lake’s population of 10,600.
The “adoption” took on the community’s hashtag – #marshalltownstrong – in its social media marketing, in hopes it would inspire some people to give, Prosser noted.
“I just can’t imagine what those people went through,” she said. “If you are struggling paycheck-to-paycheck and paying for a Catholic school tuition, a natural disaster like this would be a horrible thing. If people couldn’t contribute, I hoped they could pray for our friends in Marshalltown.”
Father Tim Friedrichsen, pastor of Storm Lake and Early Sacred Heart, came on board and volunteered a second collection at both churches.
“I remember when St. Mary’s Mapleton was hit by a tornado and the number of communities that helped out,” he said. “So, this seemed to be a chance to help out another community.”
“We opened our collection for St. Francis School to any parishioner as well as school families,” Prosser pointed out. “We made an on-line button on our donation page so that any supporter or alumni could make a contribution as well – and they did.”
Berg suggested the collection period be extended through St. Mary School Panther Fair/Registration so that people could sign cards and drop in a contribution also.
Prosser admitted the biggest challenge in taking on this project was the time of year.
“It was summertime and we didn’t have the captive audience we would have had in the school year,” she said. “I wanted more students to sign cards, so I was tackling people in the office to sign it, and students to sign it at registration. I even had a few sign it in Spanish.”
Ultimately, Prosser sent a check for $4,385.26 to St. Francis School with cards that included blessings and well-wishes.
“I love that our parish and school could help another Catholic school’s neediest families during a crisis,” she said. “Maybe our little fundraiser helped a little bit. Maybe our prayers and just the fact that another Catholic school with no connection to them lifted someone’s spirts? We hope so.”