Drive raises $44K

Published 11:59 pm Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday, motorists didn’t let up in their generosity as $12,600 was raised for the victims’ families of Tuesday’s shooting spree in Coffee and Geneva counties that left 11 people dead.

It was the second wave of fund-raising organized by WAAO owner Blaine Wilson and his staff.

“It’s just unbelievable the support the people have shown,” Wilson said.

The three-day effort began Wednesday when nearly $4,000 was raised specifically for a Geneva County deputy whose wife and toddler were killed in the rampage, and whose infant child was injured. On Thursday, local politicians and law enforcement officers spent the entire day in a roadblock collecting money for all the victims’ families. By 6 p.m., $27,854.15 had been collected and caskets and vaults had been donated for the victims. By Friday afternoon, the total amount raised had exceeded $44,000.

The local outpouring of support continued Friday morning as a new shift took to the street to collect monies — this time comprised of members of local volunteer fire departments and other law enforcement agencies.

“One of my police officer friends, Kevin Norris of the (Andalusia Police Department) said he had a story he had to share,” Wilson said. “He said this guy came through and just handed his driver’s license and insurance card out the window. Kevin told him it wasn’t a roadblock and the man asked what was going on.

“Kevin told him they were taking up money for the families in Geneva and Coffee counties,” he said. “The man said he wasn’t from here and hadn’t heard about it. When Kevin told him, he said it was unbelievable. He said he wanted to help, but didn’t have a lot of money on him, but that he’d give him what was in his wallet.

“Kevin said he opened it up and pulled out two $100 bills and said that was all he had and he was happy to give it, that he wished it was more,” he said. “When the man pulled off, Kevin said he had a Knoxville, Tenn., tag, so that means the people who are giving are from everywhere. That man had no ties here that we know of, but this story touched him and he gave.

“And that’s what’s happening everywhere,” he said. “This story is touching people and they feel like they have to do something.”

It is a sentiment felt countywide. Florala residents also held a bucket drive at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 331 and Fifth Avenue Friday to benefit the victims’ families. It is unknown as of press time how much was raised at the event, but Mayor Robert Williamson said everyone felt they “just had to do something.”

“All the money hasn’t been counted yet, but people were very generous,” Williamson said. “We all wanted to show how much our hearts go out to those families.”

Weather permitting, a community-wide yard sale will be held today beginning at 7 a.m. in the parking lot beside WAAO with all proceeds benefiting the victims’ families. Members of Crossover Ministries will be on hand to assist with the sale.