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Tornadoes hit Western Massachusetts

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    Ben Smith

Dear friends,

We wish to extend our support and best wishes to our colleagues in Springfield, MA who were affected by Wednesday's devastating tornado. Many families in Springfield have lost their homes and several schools were heavily damaged. The Elias Brookings School - an EL school - will not reopen this year due to heavy damage to their building. As Brookings staff and students struggle to reorient to their temporary classrooms in the coming weeks, we know that their strong sense of community and supportive culture will help them through this difficult time.

EL works with several schools in Springfield in addition to Brookings - Duggan Middle School, STEM Middle Academy, Springfield Renaissance School, and formerly Beal, Pottenger, and Zanetti schools. Our hearts are with them all. I'm sure that this event will resonate for many of you who have experienced severe weather over the last few years. School has been closed in Springfield for the past two days, but the community is moving forward despite the obstacles before them. Renaissance students have been using Facebook to mobilize volunteers to provide everything from clothing to meals to handsaws in the neighborhoods that were hardest hit. And the seniors, who graduate on Monday night, are at the school today practicing for the ceremony.

I'll leave you with a heartening story told to us by Steve Mahoney, the principal of Renaissance. On Thursday he received a distraught phone call from an eighth grader who was in the South End Community Center when the roof was torn off the building. As it turns out, the student was less upset by what he witnessed than by the fact that his backpack - with his passage portfolio inside - was lost to the tornado. Stories like these remind us of how important school communities are in anchoring children when tragedy strikes. Our thoughts are with them all.

We wish Springfield a speedy recovery. Please join us in helping by donating to the United Way and Red Cross's local efforts to help alleviate some of the suffering in Springfield. The links are below.

Scott Hartl

United Way of the Pioneer Valley

Red Cross