The fundraiser for victims of the April 27 storm was the result of a partnership among Northeast Mississippi media outlets, and it produced $53,113.27 during a live broadcast at The Mall at Barnes Crossing.
Mall patrons filled fish bowls with cash and checks while others called their pledges in to 10 phones lines. Even though he knew the $50,000 goal could be reached, CREATE President Mike Clayborne said he was pleasantly surprised to see that it was exceeded.
“It is a wonderful testimony that different media companies would come together in joint sponsorship to help pull this event off,” Clayborne said. “This says a lot for the spirit of Northeast Mississippi that neighbors are willing to help neighbors this way. There is a healthy rivalry that exists between area communities but when it’s important people pull together for the good of the region.”
Afterward, the goal was extended to $100,000, and the fundraising will continue at CREATE until the end of June. No one was happier to see the phone lines busy and the fish bowls filling up more than Smithville Mayor Gregg Kennedy.
Of all the Mississippi areas affected by the April 27 storms, Smithville was hit the hardest, with 16 people killed and nearly 80 percent of the town destroyed.
“Words can’t express our appreciation to all these people here to help today and who have been helping since the storms hit,” Kennedy said.
Media participants in the fundraiser were Journal Inc., WTVA, Tupelo Radio Broadcasing and Mississippi Radio Group.
Donations came in all sizes, large and small. Tammy Tackitt had been planning to get the air-conditioning fixed in her car in anticipation of a hot summer. But after seeing the needs in Smithville and other areas, she decided to donate that $100 to the tornado relief.
“I can roll down my windows,” Tackitt said, “but these people have nothing.”