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Desk plan: Furnishings from former St. Pat’s headed for Africa

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Cathy Dobson

Local Rotarians are preparing to ship surplus furniture from the former St. Patrick’s High School building on East Street to underprivileged students in South Africa.

“It’s a great way to use furnishings that would otherwise end up in the dump,” says Debbie Renaud-McDermott, project lead with the Rotary Club of Sarnia.

Her club has teamed up with the Bluewaterland Rotarians and the After-Hours Rotary Club to pack two trucking containers with desks, chairs, chalkboards, books and filing cabinets for shipping in April.

Renaud-McDermott was inspired by Grand Bend’s Rotarians, who have packed and shipped 44 containers of surplus school supplies to South Africa is six years.

Members of the Sarnia clubs hope to start with two or three containers from St. Pat’s this spring, and more when other schools close.

“Unfortunately, the reality is that schools are closing frequently these days,” Renaud-McDermott said.  “Repurposing used school furniture helps at both ends by saving on dumping fees here and providing furniture to schools that often have nothing but dirt floors.”

Rotarians are also looking for donations of sports equipment, musical instruments and encyclopedias to be packed among the furniture. Local groups willing to make plastic mats out of milk bags for packing the containers are also welcome, she said.

They also need to raise $6,000 (US) for each container shipped.

“We’re excited to be a part of this worthwhile project,” Jim McKenzie, associate director at the St. Clair Catholic District School Board, said in a release.

The board wouldn’t allow The Journal into the former high school last week to take photos of the surplus furniture. But Renaud-McDermott said anything usable has been transferred to the consolidated school on Rapids Parkway. The rest is piled in the gym of the old school, which closed in June 2014.

“Through this partnership with the Rotary Clubs of Sarnia, and by helping our brothers and sisters in African schools, we are able to repurpose these furnishings in a way which helps to fulfill our Catholic mission to be wise stewards of our resources,” McKenzie said in the release.

Packing day at the school is April 11. Meanwhile, the Rotary clubs were holding an information night on Wednesday, March 11 to update the public


WHAT: A presentation to learn about Rotarian plan for St. Pat’s furniture

WHERE: Lambton College Event Centre on London Road

WHEN: Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m.

WHY: To explain needs in South Africa and seek volunteers and donations, including sporting goods, book shelving, knitting supplies, sewing machines and material, musical instruments and sheet music, crutches, walkers, medical supplies, milk bag mats, children’s bicycles, monetary donations.

FOR MORE: Call Christine at 519-490-1066, or email [email protected]

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