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Community During Storm
On school days, Eastside High School cafeteria manager Lillian Prine is responsible for feeding more than 1,900 hungry high school students. When Hurricane Frances came through Florida, there were no students at the school, but Lillian was still feeding the hungry.
Eastside High served as a shelter for about 150 special needs citizens during the storm. Beginning on the Saturday morning before the storm, Prine spent three and a half days at the school, preparing meals under less than ideal conditions. The school was without power during much of the storm, and Prine was limited to one small gas-powered stove in the cafeteria's kitchen.
"She was amazing," said Principal Mike Thorne. "She wanted the people in the shelter to have nutritious meals, and she made it happen."
"They needed a little TLC," said Prine. "I know I wouldn't want to be stuck in a shelter for four days eating potato chips!"
Although he wasn't even supposed to report to work, Eastside teacher Jason Howard also pitched in at the shelter, helping patients in and out of wheelchairs and beds, running errands and doing whatever else needed to be done. Even after the storm, Jason was at the school with his chain saw working to clear fallen trees.
Alachua County Schools Superintendent Dan Boyd visited several schools in the days following the storm, and says he saw and heard many examples of district employees going above and beyond the call of duty before, during and after Frances passed through the area.
"Many of them suffered damage to their own homes, and yet they were out at the schools doing what needed to be done to make sure the campuses would be safe for the students and staff," he said.
Eastside was one of six Alachua County schools that provided citizens with shelter during the storm. Even after Frances had passed, schools were pressed into service to help citizens throughout the community. Hawthorne High was a distribution point for ice, water and food in that community. Lincoln Middle School was the site of a food giveaway in the eastern part of Gainesville. Hidden Oak Elementary even became a temporary post office when postal workers set up shop in the parking lot so residents living in flooded neighborhoods could get their mail.
"This crisis has shown that Alachua County schools are a vital part of this community, even when school is not in session," said Boyd. "I'm proud of the role our schools and our employees played in helping people weather the storm."