Donations pour in

Published 11:59 pm Thursday, March 12, 2009

People brought loose change, large bills and checks to downtown Andalusia yesterday as they donated in a fund drive for the families of victims in the shooting spree that left 11 people in Coffee and Geneva counties dead Tuesday.

What started as a three-hour event with a goal of raising $10,000 over thee days lasted 12 hours and raised $27,854.15 yesterday. And that was before the gallons of coins collected on East Three Notch Street yesterday were counted.

“Overwhelmed is an understatement,” WAAO owner Blaine Wilson, who organized the event, said. “I am very proud to live in south Alabama, the heart of Dixie.”

Wilson, who worked in law enforcement before buying the radio station, was in Geneva County when officers first began responding to the bloody massacre Tuesday. When he went on the air Wednesday morning, he began calling for donations, specifically for a Geneva County deputy whose wife and toddler were killed in the rampage, and whose infant child was injured. Wednesday afternoon, he and his wife, Andrea, delivered about $4,000 to Geneva County Deputy Josh Myers.

On Thursday morning, they invited area politicians and law enforcement officers to hold a roadblock and help them collect money for all the victims’ families between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“At 9, people were still giving, so we thought we’d go a little while longer,” Wilson said. “Then we thought we’d go until lunch. We kept getting support, so we decided to go until school was out. We didn’t stop until 6 o’clock.”

In addition to the cash donations received, WAAO and the countless volunteers who helped with the drive also received a donation of caskets and vaults for all of the victims.

Phillip Gilmer of Mobile donated caskets for all of the victims. The caskets will be built at Covington Casket in Andalusia. Gilmer then plans to bill the Victims Compensation Fund for the caskets and donate the proceeds to the fund drive.

Gilmer, who owns a Mobile funeral home, is the husband of Andalusia native Sally Bass Gilmer, Wilson’s aunt.

Later in the day, Lester’s Auto Salvage contributed $500 toward tombstones for the victims and McNeill Concrete donated vaults.

Coffee County Jail administrator Richard Moss is coordinating the effort to get the caskets and vaults to the four funeral homes in four different cities involved in providing funeral services for the victims.

Meanwhile, Wilson said, the total contributed is expected to go higher this morning.

“Several businesses called and said they were raising money within their businesses,” he said. “Sitel, CCB Community Bank in Andalusia and Opp, Amerigas in Opp, and D.W. McMillan Home Health from Brewton all called to say they would bring donations Friday. Several area daycares also were waiting to deliver money.”

“The Andalusia Police Department, escorted by a second officer from APD, transported the money to the built in safe at the police department where it was stored,” he said. “We’ll coordinate delivery to the Geneva County Sheriff’s Department when we are done.”

Checks should be made to the Geneva County Sheriff’s Department and marked for the Coffee and Geneva County victims fund.