Cleveland ISD administrators and Ima Survivor Sanctuary teamed up to surprise Cottonwood Elementary Principal Richard Pena on Wednesday when the administrators led a surprise patrol motorcade to the animal sanctuary in Plum Grove to meet with its owner, Lester Morrow.
Pena was presented with a check for $10,000 that will be used for seed money to start a parent-teacher organization and to purchase items for STEM technology with an emphasis on science and math. Ima Survivor Animal Sanctuary also donated comfort items that will enhance the teacher lounge at Cottonwood Elementary.
Morrow, who retired from teaching at Aldine ISD last year and now works part-time for Cleveland ISD, founded the sanctuary in 2017 following Hurricane Harvey. Morrow rose to internet fame after a video he posted of his return to his rural farm after the hurricane went viral and was seen by millions of people around the world.
“Animals are our story. We had a couple of animals that survived the flooding of Hurricane Harvey and the reunion was caught on video,” Morrow explained to the Cleveland ISD administrators.
From that tragedy, Morrow and his life partner, Jami Walker, have created a home for dozens of animals, including some who were orphaned, injured or otherwise unwanted. Wednesday’s visit to the farm was a first for Cleveland ISD Superintendent Chris Trotter who called it a “slice of heaven.” The administrators were given a tour and met Tex the Longhorn, Annie the alpaca, Meg the goat and Cornholio the turkey – stars of Ima Survivor’s almost-daily videos on its 100,000-person subscriber channel on YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQjLeVT-g6CfVIUmz_jqHiA.
“What you see before you now is not the way it was three years ago. That pile of dirt over there is where my home is buried. My brother’s home is always buried. We had about six feet of water in our house during Hurricane Harvey. We lost everything,” Morrow said.
Some of the animals who survived the storm remain on the farm today, including Ima the donkey for whom the animal sanctuary is named.
Trotter said he appreciates Morrow for wanting to partner with the school.
“This is just another example of how our community supports its schools,” Trotter said.