By Galen Holley/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – As the official death toll from Haiti’s earthquake tops 200,000, the city of Tupelo, public school students and religious congregations are reaching deep to help relieve that nation’s suffering.
At City Hall on Thursday Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr., along with Tupelo school administrators and clergy members, presented the American Red Cross with a check for more than $56,600. That check will be added to the $36,000 collected by the Red Cross of Northeast Mississippi.
All of the money will go straight to Haiti, where international relief workers are trying to treat people living in tent villages and under tarpaulins, still terrified to enter solid structures.
The Tupelo-Haiti Relief Project kicked off Jan 15 and was administered by the CREATE Foundation, a Tupelo-based philanthropic organization.
More than $17,000 of the money came from students of Tupelo public schools, who last week undertook some creative fundraising.
Some students wore hats to school, and paid for the privilege. At Milam Junior High the chance to throw pies at administrators was well worth a few bucks. At Tupelo High School, classes in which everyone contributed $1 got to attend a concert given by students.
“Our schools are proud to participate in this loosely defined quality known as Tupelo spirit,” Superintendent Dr. Randy Shaver said Thursday.
Accepting the check, a grateful Reed paraphrased Isaiah 11:6: “A little child shall lead them,” he said.
That spirit of helpfulness also was evident in the dozens of churches that took up Sunday offerings for the particular fund and for other organizations sending money overseas.
The members at White Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Tupelo raised more than $12,000 in two weeks, and St. James Catholic Church kicked in another $14,000.
Many churches continue to give through other avenues.
Southern Baptist churches in Lee County have given more than $2,500 through the convention office in Jackson, and many congregations are supporting the efforts of the non-denominational missionary Global Outreach International.
The Tupelo-based organization, which has collected more than $325,000, recently sent a plane to Haiti with medical supplies as well as a volunteer from Tupelo.
Members of United Methodist congregations throughout the Magnolia State have given more than $120,000 through the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
As of Thursday morning, Reed was excited to find out that more checks had just arrived.
“This might be the best morning I’ve had as mayor,” said Reed, smiling. “At its best, government can help create a pathway to live the lives we want to live.”
Contact Galen Holley at (662) 678-1510 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Education reporter Chris Kieffer contributed to this story.