Donors Help Magic Carpet Preschool Get Back to Barton Street

When Penny Pomfret, director of Magic Carpet Preschool in Bloomsburg, dismissed her students early on September 7th from their Barton Street location, she was thinking about flooding but was focusing on the potential for losses in the school’s basement. “I did not realize how destructive the flood would be until I woke up Thursday morning after it had already happened. We went to bed Wednesday evening believing [the river] would crest at 28 feet, much less than Agnes.”  Because the school’s current location was not flooded during Agnes, the main concerns were water in the basement and the potential loss of the furnace or hot water heater.  After the river and Fishing Creek hit record levels, the reality of the damage was devastating.

The basement was inundated and even the classrooms on the main floor had approximately a foot of water.  The majority of all classroom materials, toys, books, furniture, and supplies were lost.   The school was closed for seven days and was forced to relocate to the Wesley United Methodist Church, which generously provided space to both Magic Carpet Preschool and the Columbia County Child Development Program.  According to Pomfret, “Parents, children, and teachers adapted well to our new surroundings and the people at the church have been most kind and welcoming to us. Pastor Jay Jones even let us store our salvageable belongings in his garage!”

And even though the mission of the school is to facilitate learning for 3-5 year olds with a hands-on problem solving approach, no one was prepared for the amount of “hands on” and “problem solving” that they would all have to engage in.   The facility would need to be gutted and essentially rebuilt.  And because the school was founded in 1973, nearly 40 years of acquired learning materials were lost.

But Pomfret says the network of people who were concerned about Magic Carpet Preschool instantly stepped up to help with the rebuilding process, “In the days following the flood, there was a huge outpouring of support from alumni, parents, and friends on various Facebook sites. It was heartwarming and firmed up my commitment to continue the school.  Many alums, parents, friends, and people who heard about the school have sent contributions, toys, and supplies.”

Two such people were Sue Van Kirk and Tricia Cossick, both of State College, who found out about the disastrous flooding primarily through Facebook.  Van Kirk grew up in Harrisburg where river levels were often talked about.  In addition, her parents were from Mt. Carmel and her mother and grandmother both have degrees from Bloomsburg University.  She talked with her own daughters and her Brownie Troop about the losses and the children instantly wanted to do something.  “The kids were saying things like, ‘I feel really bad for the children who lost everything in the flooding.  They don’t have any toys. Can we do something?'”  Van Kirk sent an email to troop parents and they gathered items at their next two meetings.  In the end, 7 girls collected over 100 items for the school:  a dollhouse, a princess pop-up tent, puzzles, books, art supplies, and more.  According to Van Kirk, who hand delivered the donations to Pomfret, “Even I was surprised and touched by the generosity.”

Tricia Cossick also learned about the severity of the flooding through Facebook.  Cossick is the Director of OCC Montessori Preschool, so she was instantly sympathetic to a preschool losing nearly everything they owned. “When I heard that a longstanding quality preschool program had been swept away in flood waters, I felt like I wanted to do something to make a difference.”  Cossick is now in contact with the parents from her school, as well as other State College preschools in order to collect gently-used preschool furniture, educational toys, and books to donate to Magic Carpet, as well as other affected preschools in the area.  She is currently storing the items and will deliver them to Bloomsburg when the collection is complete.

While Pomfret had some hesitation about reinvesting in the current location, she feels a commitment to the preschool children and their families.  “No one can predict the future.  Right now we are concentrating on getting Magic Carpet up and running at Barton Street.”

Apparently that concentration has paid off.  Pomfret now reports that the Barton Street location of Magic Carpet will be re-opened to students on Thursday, November 3rd.  Pomfret is amazed, “The outpouring of support has been unbelievable!”

Magic Carpet Preschool can be contacted at 570-784-9282 .  The Columbia County Child Development Program can be contacted at 570-784-8618.

(Full disclosure:  Kristin Zeisloft Camplese is an alumna of Magic Carpet Preschool)

It’s Your Turn: Santa Needs Our Help

It is the first day of November and many thoughts are now turning to the holidays.  Flood victims are the primary concern as the holidays can be a difficult time for those who have suffered major losses.  One victim who no one has been talking about, however, is Santa Claus.  Unfortunately, when the flood waters came, even his cottage wasn’t spared.  Stored at the Public Works building in Bloomsburg, it incurred significant damage and is currently being repaired by those in the Public Works Department.

We talked with Tim Wagner from Downtown Bloomsburg Inc. (DBI, which runs the cottage) and he indicated that about two feet of water got into the cottage. With such extensive destruction in the town, no one’s thoughts quickly went to the cottage, but recently Public Works Superintendent John Barton went into to take a look and found the damage.  The drywall, wiring, and carpet had to be pulled out and according to Wagner, “Santa’s cottage looks like most houses in Bloomsburg right now.”

Bloomsburg Carpet donated carpet for the interior and work is being done to install the new drywall, put in the carpet, and do some last minute painting.  But Wagner said that “when we started thinking about all of the stuff in there that made it ‘homey,’ things started adding up.”  The following items are needed:  Santa’s chair, an ottoman, 1 or 2 end tables, a small desk, a framed mirror, and a 2 foot or 4 foot baseboard electric heating unit.  While not entirely necessary, Wagner indicated that these items really make it feel like a cottage when children arrive.

And Downtown Bloomsburg, Inc. and the Town of Bloomsburg are under a strict deadline as the repairs need to be completed by the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving (November 22nd or 23rd), so it is ready for WHLM’s Parade of Lights on Friday, November 25th.  Wagner is confident though. “It will get done and there will be a Santa’s Cottage.  It’s just not acceptable to not have it.”

If you would like to make a donation or purchase an item to help Santa and the town out, please contact Tim Wagner at Wagner’s Trophies at 570-784-6025.  Donations are tax-deductible.   In addition, the DBI is looking for a tree donation for next to the cottage.  If you have one that you might be willing to part with, please contact the town or Mr. Wagner.

Photo by corsi photo


The Moose Exchange Donation Center: Q&A with Rachel Troychock

Focused on children’s clothing and supplies, the AGAPE donation center at the Moose Exchange has been up and running since mid-September, thanks to the work of a tireless volunteer named Rachel Troychock.

Rachel took some time recently to answer a few questions for us.

Q. What do you do for a living?

I am a Manager of Technology Learning Services at KPMG (geeky computer stuff). I work remotely and the rest of my team is in Montvale, NJ and Washington, DC.

Q. How did you become involved in the Moose Exchange donation center?

I volunteered through AGAPE to prepare meals the first few days after the flood and soon was offered the opportunity to open this location through my friend and realtor, Kathy Lowe, who is the volunteer coordinator for the flood relief efforts through AGAPE. I took two weeks of vacation at first, but now I am back to work full time on an altered schedule to keep the center open. Yesterday, with our son being sick was my first time my husband and I were away from the donation center since we opened. I am so grateful for my family, friends and new friends we have made along the way.

Q. Can you give us a brief overview of what sorts of donations you received at the Moose Exchange?

We’ve received a little bit of everything. Most donations contain some toys and clothing, but we’ve had folks come in – ask us what we need and then return with either used or brand new items. If there is a need I’ve posted on Facebook in the relief groups (such as Bloomsburg Flood 2011 – Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Flood 2011 Relief From Bloomsburg PA Natives) and within a day or two we’ve gotten what we asked for.

The donation center carries (in no particular order) diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, clothing from preemie to 14/16 and Juniors, coats, hats/gloves/scarves, car seats, strollers, high chairs, booster seats (both for cars and dining), baby and adult toiletries, monitors, crib/toddler/twin size bedding including quilts, cribs, bassinets/cradles, mother/nursing supplies (nursing pads, pumps, maternity/nursing clothing), etc… We also have an assortment of games, books and coloring books for kids of every age.

Q. Where did these donations come from? What was the breakdown of private donations/businesses…all local or did some supplies come in from out of the area?

I’m not sure where the donations sent from AGAPE came from originally although some of the boxes we unpacked that first day were marked as being from FEMA.

We’ve received many, many, many donations from local residents… We didn’t start tracking the donations that were coming in until we had been open several days, but over the past two weeks we’ve had close to 60 donations (not counting the many who snuck in after-hours – sadly, AGAPE won’t receive any information on these donations – having the value of the donations helps).

Q. How many families-in-need have been helped so far by the donation program?

We’ve helped over 90 families, many of which have been in several times. Most of the families coming in still don’t seem to have a permanent place to stay yet. We have several families camping behind or near their homes. That being said I think the need is still there, but the victims aren’t necessarily ready to take more than the essentials.

Q. I heard that you did a door-to-door canvas last month. What were the results of that?

Due to lack of volunteers and rainy weather we haven’t been able to go door-to-door again, but it did seem to help. My husband and another volunteer spent about an hour walking thru west Bloom and called in orders which we packed up and delivered. We were able to reach 5 families that either didn’t know we were there or hadn’t made the time to come visit us. A few of those families have been back to see us again!

I’m going to be calling some of the families that have come through to catch up and see if we can provide any more assistance to them. I’m also going to try to get a hold of folks at each of the schools to send fliers which can be distributed.

Q. Are you anticipating more families coming in to the Moose Exchange to pick up supplies? If so, how many?

Most definitely. We’re averaging about 7 families per day we’re open, but we’re seeing the amount of families is increasing over time. Some of that is because we’ve shortened our hours, but it is also because familes are finally getting back into homes (whether it is their home or a rental property until work on their home is complete). Monday we helped over 10 families and yesterday was over a dozen.

Q. Are there any donations currently needed by the Moose Exchange?

Bookbags, winter coats/hats/gloves (especially in the larger children’s sizes – 3T and up), winter girls clothing in 3T and 5T.

The needs seem to change every week though, so I encourage people to contact me before bringing in donations.

If you are in need of children’s supplies, wish to donate, or want to volunteer to help at the Moose Exchange donation center, please contact Rachel at: 862-812-9855 or


Jen Ralston, The Bloomsburg Daily

Photo courtesy Sue Zarrett