By Brandon Speck/Monroe Journal
OXFORD – Ole Miss lent a big hand to Smithville tornado victims on Sunday through the Rebel Relief Project.
In the parking lot of the Oxford Wal-Mart, people came by the truckload to donate items to victims of the EF-5 tornado that destroyed the Monroe County town on April 27.
Some 40 players, head coach Houston Nutt, new associate head coach Gunter Brewer and former coach Billy Brewer were among those unloading trucks and trailers.
The Ole Miss Ladies’ Football Forum volunteers carefully sorted and divided the items and by the middle of the eight-hour event, the 18-wheel Ole Miss football equipment truck was filling up.
“We always try to teach our guys to be givers,” said Nutt, who learned of the devastation in Smithville through his car dealer, Amory’s Larry Clark. “Once I heard they may not have a season and a lot of people don’t even have anything from toothbrushes to shoes, your heart just aches and you want to give.”
The event drew the attention of two radio stations, 102.1 KBUD “Reb Sports Radio” and 93.7 WQLJ, both live on location.
Chyna Ward-Poley, who coordinates the Ladies’ Football Forum group, got the project idea going and everyone jumped on board Nutt said.
And despite temperatures that scared 100 degrees, there was hardly a break in the action.
“Wow. It’s huge. I knew that people would answer, but without all these helpers, it’s not possible. We’re going to be able to help a lot of people,” Ward-Poley said. “We can’t bring back a lot of the memories they lost but we can make some tomorrows a little happier.”
Ole Miss coaches and personnel, including Nutt, will deliver the items to Smithville on July 19.
Ward-Poley had just helped clear two 16-foot trailers of donations and credited the radio stations for getting the word out across the region. She said the volleyball team stopped by to volunteer earlier Sunday morning.
The equipment truck driver offered to drive a second truck to Smithville if the first one filled up.
It was filling quickly but there are many small gifts that didn’t take up much space, including valuable gift cards residents will use to rebuild their lives. More than 400 women are scheduled to take part in Saturday’s football forum, where more donations will be taken from 7 a.m. until noon behind the indoor practice facility.
Cash donations will also be accepted. There was a large box full of cash, checks and gift cards on Sunday and all the ways and items to donate, including through the banks, can be found on OleMissSports.com
“We may need another truck, the way it’s looking,” Nutt said. “These people have been so good. I tell you what, we’ve just got a lot to be thankful for, so you just want to give back. Turnout’s been unbelievable.”