The University of Southern Mississippi’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity has raised more than $3,000 through a GoFundMe page for Hattiesburg tornado relief.
Last weekend, an EF-3 tornado struck the Pine Belt, leaving four residents dead and hundreds of others homeless.
Along with the damage of many homes, students of William Carey University were forced to evacuate, as their campus was directly hit by the storm.
On Saturday morning, about 20 members of SAE went to WCU and joined Toby Barker’s volunteer group. At the work site, the fraternity brothers found that there was an overwhelming number of volunteers but few supplies.
“We were told at the volunteer sites that all of the volunteers – [they] really couldn’t do anything to help, because they had to wait or people they hired with actual supplies to remove the debris and heavier objects that were in the way,” said SAE President Zac VanNorman.
This led members of the fraternity to establish a GoFundMe page in an effort to provide victims and community workers with resources and supplies to clean up the affected neighborhoods and businesses.
“We’re just all about the community and wanting to help in any way we could,” said Fraternity Correspondent Caleb Courtney. “All of the brothers wanted to reach out, and we thought we could take it even a step forward by doing so.”
Courtney created the GoFundMe page and used a platform of resources to get the word out in an organized manner. The original post has reached more than 5,000 people and the GoFundMe page has raised more than $3,000 within a few days.
“I have friends who attend William Carey who were in their dorms and lost everything,” Courtney said. “All I keep saying to myself is that – for me – it could have been a lot worse.”
Southern Miss Residential Life has spent the week relocating William Carey students to dorms such as Hillcrest and supplying them with essentials.
With the brother’s ambition for helping the community, the original GoFundMe goal was set to $10,000. After realizing a number so big may discourage people from donating, the group halved the goal amount.
The goal for SAE’s Tornado Relief page is now $5,000. Once their goal is reached, the fraternity plans to either present a volunteer organization with a check or even purchase the supplies necessary for tornado relief.
“There [are] a lot of people that when there is a tornado or natural disaster will only go and help the first two days, get what they want out of it and be done with it,” VanNorman said. “We believe that by giving this money out, it should go toward an organization that continuously works in clean- up efforts – not just one person or one group, but an organization that is going to help the entire community.”
For more information about the project visit SAE’s facebook page.