Oak Grove superintendent ups ante to help poor school in Mexico
Pencils have been a hit for the past six years, but new desks delivered Tuesday to a poor school in Mexico was a milestone for a local superintendent who wants to expand the generosity.
Only the principal at Ignacio L. Vallarta School in Puerto Vallarta knew the first batch of 150 desks was being delivered, courtesy of Lonny Lemon, superintendent at Oak Grove District 68 in Green Oaks.
Ramon Valle Hernandez, in an email translated by District 68 Building Superintendent Ozzie Suarez, who has been helping with logistics, noted Lemon's generosity.
"The children are very thankful and appreciative with you Mr. Lonny for providing them with new desks," it reads.
For the past six years, Lemon, Suarez and custodial staff members, many of whom were born in Mexico, have collected thousands of dropped or discarded pencils. Every spring break, Lemon has delivered bundles of pencils to the Mexican school, which he noticed during annual trips to the area.
For the first five years, those students were on break when Lemon arrived, so the bundled pencils were thrown into a fenced courtyard with a note of explanation in Spanish.
Last year, Lemon for the first time met the students and staff and saw the classrooms in person. He described the conditions as primitive compared to U.S. schools and decided to up the ante.
Lemon asked Hernandez about desks for the students.
"He said, 'If I had 100 to 125 desks, it would be a great start.'"
This past February, Lemon started a GoFundMe campaign with a goal of $25,000.
"Our schools here have so much to be thankful for, these students go crazy with excitement when they receive pencils. I can't imagine the joy they would receive if they got new desks," Lemon said in the introduction to that page.
Roughly $15,000 was amassed by May 1, including $1,000 from Lemon and his wife.
"I had a lot of guardian angels helping these people from all over the United States and Canada," Lemon said. Donations averaged from $25 to $50.
That was enough to buy 150 desks. Finding the best deal, including shipping and making the arrangements to have the money transferred, took awhile, he said.
Thirty desks were delivered Tuesday and the remaining 120 are scheduled for Monday. Lemon said he is considering being there to help the students assemble them.
As for pencils, Lemon said the overall total collected by his staff, bus drivers and others as well as those donated to the cause topped 20,000 this year.
Lemon says now that he has a successful campaign under his belt with verifiable proof to donors, he'll be rekindling the effort to finish the job.
"My next mission will be fact finding," he said. "I can't believe 150 desks was all they needed."