HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Petal resident Ashley Rich, who is a librarian at Oak Grove Upper Elementary School, lost everything in the Jan. 21 tornado.
Oak Grove Upper Elementary School Principal Heather Roland has joined in to lend a helping hand to a coworker in need.
"Our librarian's home was destroyed and her husband was injured in the tornado, and we immediately started thinking of ways to help them rebuild and to replace the furniture and all their belongings," Roland said.
Roland said students and faculty have joined in the efforts by paying to wear jeans one day, teachers donated money and multiple other schools in the area also contributed money.
"It hit home with our librarian. She lost everything, and I don't have a house I can give her to stay in right now, but I can do little things like this to try to raise funds," Roland said. "During that time, we were trying to think of some other ways to raise funds, and I contacted Leslie Gonce, who creates t-shirts and stationary, and she graciously donated her time and created this t-shirt for us to sell."
Rich was left with tear-filled eyes and a few words about the acts of kindness.
"It just, it's incredible, because there are so many strangers that have come around us, not just people that love us, not just people that know us, family and friends but people that don't know us are rallying around us," Rich said.
Even in hard times, there is always room for a little laughter and joking, especially when it comes between the towns that house the Oak Grove Warriors and Petal Panthers.
"We are one big family, we do have rivalry in sports with Petal, but they are teaching kids just like we are, and we're all part of the Hattiesburg area and we help each other when we need to," Roland said. "We're all neighbors, we're all here for each other, we are teaching our children to be productive citizens and this is just one way that we can show them how to help others."
Rich said, "I just did not realize the support that's in this community. I think that's something I will never forget, and I think that's something I'm going to have to pay forward for the rest of my life."
You can see information regarding t-shirt orders here, and if you are interested you can contact Jaime Beasley at Oak Grove Upper Elementary School at 601-264-6724.