4 years after Harvey, Kingwood HS students give back to Pennsylvania school hit by Hurricane Ida

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Tuesday, October 19, 2021
Schools in Upper Dublin, Pa. and Texas connected by kindness
From a classroom at Upper Dublin High School, to a living room in Houston, Texas, a teacher and a mom met for the first face-to-face over Zoom.

FORT WASHINGTON, Pennsylvania -- From a classroom at Pennsylvania high school to a living room in Houston, a teacher and a mom met for the first time face-to-face over Zoom.

However, their stories have been intertwined for decades.

"I stayed here forever because the kids are wonderful. Teaching keeps you young, motivated," said Mary Anna Swart, who has taught in the Upper Dublin School District for 35 years.

"And you were here in 1991," Swart said to Mary Neuman, who is an Upper Dublin graduate and has since moved to Houston. The two, however, had never crossed paths until four years ago.

When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Swart and her class started organizing a fundraiser for Kingwood High School.

"It was devastating. Their books were ruined and their shelves were ruined - and their classrooms," said Swart.

Kingwood happened to be where Neuman's children went.

"My mom had lived in the area still and she saw the flyer for the fundraiser event and she was like, 'Mary, look at this, and reach out,'" said Neuman.

Upper Dublin raised over $10,000 for Harvey relief.

"It was actually really touching to me to have that happen because you just feel like a little piece of home reaches out and gives you a hug," said Neuman.

Neuman and the students at Kingwood had always wanted to return the favor. So last month, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit Upper Dublin, the kids began raising money for gift cards to help Ida victims buy supplies.

"Kindness. Kindness really does change things," said Swart.

Swart believes it's a lesson bigger than any math class, orchestrated by two neighbors from across the country whose new friendship had perfect timing.

"To have our children learn how to care about each other is just amazing," Swart said to Neuman.