Donation benefits special education students

By Megan R. Harrell

Special education students at Cloudland High School will receive a new kitchen for their classroom thanks to the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. Yesterday three representatives from the Catholic fraternal organization presented the school with a check for $6,200 to cover the costs of materials and appliances.
   The Comprehensive Development Classroom (CDC) at Cloudland High School is one of four provided for children with special educational needs in the county school system. However, the CDC room is the only one in the school system not already equipped with a kitchen.
   Last spring, special education teacher, Mary Gibbs, set out to secure a kitchen for her students because she saw the importance of teaching them custodial life skills.
   "I can tell them something over and over again, but until they have hands on experience with repetition they do not learn it," Gibbs said. "Now they can learn how to cook here and carry it over to their home lives."
   Most of Gibbs' 15 students do not know how to cook or clean for themselves, and she looks forward to teaching them in the new kitchen as soon as January. A new washer, dryer, stove, microwave, sink, and cabinets will be installed by maintenance workers with the Carter County school system.
   Superintendent of Carter County Schools, Dallas Williams, was pleased to provide installers in order to make the kitchen a reality for the students in Roan Mountain.
   "The Knights of Columbus approached me with the grant and indicated that they had elected to pledge money for the project, but that left the installation as a remaining expense. We had to demonstrate to them that we would have a plan in place to install the appliances in order to secure the grant," Williams said.
   The state requires the county to provide education for the CDC students until they are 22-years-old, and as their teacher Gibbs feels the burden to use her time to equip them for everyday life. She said many times parents neglect to teach their children how to cook and clean because they are afraid they will get injured.
   Gibbs first made her need for a new kitchen known to the public on News Channel 11's Education Watch. It was through the news program that the Knights of Columbus learned of the school's need, and stepped forward to help with the cost of the kitchen.
   Manuel Bandarra, financial secretary for the Knights of Columbus from St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church, saw Gibbs on television and brought her situation to the attention of others in his organization. "I saw it on television, but the others have run with it," Bandarra said.
   The Knights worked with Hugh Buckles and the Carter County Schools system to provide for the kitchen. Even though the money came from his organization, Grand Knight, Bob Peoples, said a number of people contributed to the project.
   "Mrs. Gibbs is a dedicated teacher with a need, and she was fortunate to find somebody to help her," Peoples said. "It was really a community effort. Everybody came together to make it a reality."
   According to its members, the Knights of Columbus' main principle is charity. The knights collect donations from the public in order to finance several charitable causes in the community. One half of all they raise is sent to the state chapter, while the other half benefits local causes at the knight's discretion.
   Gibbs and Peoples plan to shop together for the appliances for the new kitchen. Gibbs said after everything is in place she and the students plan to prepare a meal for all who helped to provide them with the new kitchen.