MILTON-FREEWATER -- Local students are rallying behind the family of a girl killed last week in a fire at their home.
A series of small gestures -- from bake sales, to crafts, to simple cash donations -- has been taking place throughout the district's public schools as a way to help the family through the loss of a child and the loss of its home.
The early-morning fire Oct. 19 killed 6-year-old Malani Meza, a student at Ferndale Elementary. The fire destroyed the Meza home, but Malani's mother, two sisters and two brothers were able to make it out. The children range in ages from 18 months to 15 and attend Milton-Freewater schools.
Fourth-grade students at Ferndale have been making "Hearts for Mezas," a craft project of decorated hearts being sold for $1. The entire school is also collaborating on a quilt project for the family.
A portion of the school's Fun Fair, a PTO fundraiser to be held Friday, will also go to help the Meza family.
"I had a student bring in an envelope with a $5 bill that they wanted to contribute," said Ferndale dean of students Ron Richwine in a statement. "Another student wanted to draw pictures to try to sell to help the family. It is just amazing."
McLoughlin High School Vice Principal Jay Rodighiero estimated students had collected more than $1,200 so far through various fundraisers.
The school's soccer teams have held bake sales during the school's breaks and lunch periods. The athletes also sold treats at games. The school's choir held a cake raffle at the football game. The Key Club has committed to donate proceeds to the family from a Haunted House event.
But the fundraising is not over yet. The high school's leadership class plans to sell "Drug Free" balloons as part of Red Ribbon Week, with proceeds going to the family. And next Wednesday, the school teams will host a dinner to raise money.
"There has been so much outpouring of good from students that I have been at a loss as to keep it all straight," said Mac-Hi Principal Ralph Brown.
Central Middle School students and staff held a school-wide fundraiser, with students paying $1 and staff paying $2 to be able to wear a hat at school. Hats are typically not allowed by dress codes.
The community is also continuing to seek goods for the family members, who lost their home and all their possessions in the fire.
More information on ways to help is available at www.miltfree.k12.or.us.
Maria P. Gonzalez can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8317. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/schoolhousemissives.
How to help
An account to aid the Meza family has been set up at Baker Boyer Bank under the name of Malani Meza.
Donations of clothing and household items can be made at Stateline Community Church, 85440 Highway 11 and at Simmons Insurance Group, 620 N. Main in Milton-Freewater. Clothes needed are boy's size 101/2 shoes, 32"x32" pants and medium shirts; boy's size 4 shoes, size 10 (regular) pants and size 8 shirt; girl's size 6X clothes and clothing for an 18-month-old girl, size 20 to 24 months.
The Milton-Freewater School Board has also organized an auction benefit to be held Nov. 21 at 12:30 p.m. at the Junior Show Grounds. Small items to be donated are being collected at any of the district schools, and large items will be stored in the district storage building. All donated items will be made available to the Meza family, and goods that are not used by the family will be put up for auction. For more information call the district at 541-938-3551.