UHS benefits Texas schools

Unionville High School Principal Jimmy Conley hopes UHS can raise $100,000 by the end of the school year to help Hardin-Jefferson School District in Sour Lake, Texas.

There's usually no love lost between Philadelphia football fans and their counterparts in Texas, but Unionville High School is breaking down that barrier. The school has taken a Texas school devastated by Hurricane Harvey under its wings and has raised $50,000.UHS benefits Texas schools

Kindness is the theme of Unionville’s school year.

According to UHS Principal Jimmy Conley, the staff had decided that the theme for this school year was kindness.

"The focus of the school year for the kids was to develop a mindset of kindness. Over the summer I decided I wanted the kids to be nice to each other, on social media and elsewhere," he said.

The students first reacted, "Yeah, whatever." But that changed after learning how badly the storm clobbered the Hardin-Jefferson Independent School District.

As is the case with the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, H-JISD draws students from two counties and the high school and middle school share a campus.

Conley and his family live in Avon Grove, and his wife had developed a friendly acquaintance with another woman from Avon Grove while going to the YMCA. That other woman and family moved to Sour Lake, Texas, the home of Hardin-Jefferson ISD.

That connection helped get the ball rolling. After watching the news one night showing the devastation from the hurricane, Conley called the principal at Hardin-Jefferson high.

Hardin-Jefferson High School and Middle School right after Hurricane Harvey

"I asked, what do you guys need. He said, ‘What do you mean?' I asked what we could do to help. He said, ‘I don't even know where my teachers are.' Then it dawned on me, it wasn't about just supplies. They don't have anything," Conley said.

The effort to help started the following week when UHS played Avon Grove this football season. Fans brought donations, and the teams even wore the Hardin-Jefferson High School's hawk logo, Conley said. Then Exelon chipped in with $10,000 and $1,000 for every touchdown scored during that game.

Efforts that one night brought in more than $13,000 and the total is now $50,000. Conley said he's hoping that $50,000 can turn into $100,000 by the end of the school year.

"They lost everything," Conley said. "Their middle school was completely underwater."

Unionville High School football players wear Hardin-Jefferson High School’s hawk logo as part of a show of support.

Unionville has a "mailbox" for students and anyone else to put in gift cards as donations. Conley said using gift cards and checks work out the best so the educators at Hardin-Jefferson can buy what they need for their schools.

In the interim, some of the donations from UHS went to provide a Thanksgiving banquet for the students down there. A television news report from Sour Lake on the banquet can be found here.

Conley also received an email from an English teacher from HJ high School thanking him for the help:

"Mr. Conley,

Good afternoon. My name is Christi Thomas and I am a history and English teacher at Hardin-Jefferson High School. On behalf of my students, I wanted to thank you for the feast today. It was amazing. The kids had a great time. I have taught at HJ for 19 years, and when I started the feast was something that all students looked forward to and talked about for many years after they graduated. Due to new rules and funding, we haven't had the feast for several years, and actually, this group of students has never participated in the legendary HJ feast. During such a challenging time in our community, this feast was a great reminder of the sense of unity and love we have for one another. We are reminded that though many of us have lost so much, we still have so much for which to be thankful. One thing that is top of our list is you and your school. Thank you for adopting us. Thank you for feeding us. And most importantly thank you for loving us. We are so blessed. I hope you, your staff, and your students have a wonderful and relaxing Thanksgiving break.

(My 7th period wanted to give y'all a little shout out)

Anyone interested in helping the efforts should either write a check made payable to "Hardin-Jefferson ISD" with Hurricane relief on the memo line, or they can buy a gift card — for any amount — from Lowe's, Home Depot, Target, Walmart, Bed Bath and Beyond, Ace Hardware, JC Penney or Amazon and take it to Unionville High School. The donation mailbox is in the office.

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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