A fundraiser for Amite County tornado victims has raised more than $25,000 in the two weeks after the Dec. 16 storm.
Sara Hemphill, a Liberty attorney who organized the effort on Facebook, said the online campaign has ended, although donations are still being accepted.
“I’ve got to call the bank today for find out how much we raised but it was over $25,000,” she said Tuesday.
Hemphill later confirmed that the effort raised more than $27,000.
An EF-3 tornado with 140 mph winds struck the county, destroying homes, sheds and barns while clear-cutting a destructive path across hundreds of acres of timberland.
Hemphill said she was fortunate to lose nothing but electricity during the storm. In the hours after the twister struck, she was sitting in her darkened house with her husband and two children, annoyed by the loss of power.
“You find yourself getting really frustrated when your power’s out,” she said. “Then it just hit me how thankful I should be.”
Hemphill said she knew those impacted would need help replacing what they lost.
She made a Facebook post calling for donated clothes for storm victims “and then somebody offered a monetary donation,” she said.
Hemphill didn’t want to collect the money herself, but she knew more offers would be coming in.
“These people are going to need money,” she said. “They’re going to need to replace these things that are a lot more than clothes.”
Hemphill contacted Brent McMillan, who oversees the bank account for another local charity, Shooting for Hope, an annual skeet shooting tournament that raises money for local families with sick children.
“I reached out to Shooting for Hope. and they said, ‘Yeah, absolutely you can use our account,’ “ Hemphill said.
That made the donations to the relief effort tax deductible, Hemphill said.
“We had some people making $5 donations and we had some people making a couple hundred dollars,” she said. “I received checks in the mail from my posts. The highest check was a $1,200 check. I had a couple of $1,000 checks. It was pretty incredible.”
Hemphill is working with Amite County Emergency Management Director Grant McCurley, who has compiled a list of residents impacted by the storm, noting the severity of their losses, their greatest need and whether they had insurance.
“What’s great about the MEMA thing is that it also says if someone is insured are not,” she said. “Some people might have their checks and might have started rebuilding, but others might not have a check coming.”
Hemphill said the money might be used to help some homeowner’s meet their insurance deductible.
“That’s my plan on Thursday is to call everyone and make sure what their specific need is,” she said.
And the tornado victims won’t be the only people benefitting from the fundraiser. Hemphill said her request for donated clothes received an overwhelming response.
“We did finally shut down the clothes donations because I think I’ve got enough clothes to clothe the entire county,” she said. “My car is packed down today to take all of the remaining clothes to McComb, to either W.I.N.G.S. or St. Andrew’s.”
While the fundraiser has ended on Facebook, Hemphill said anyone who still wants to contribute can do so by sending donations made out to Shooting for Hope directly to her office at 147 S. Holmes St., Liberty.