HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - When the Hattiesburg Salvation Army was damaged in the Jan. 21 tornado, Kamiala Epting went three weeks without her usual after-school activity.
"It was disappointing," the sixth grader said.
The Salvation Army's permanent buildings needed repairs, but Corps Officer Lt. Patrick Connelly's focus was finding a temporary place for the children to go and transportation to get them there to keep the program going. To make that happen, the organization needed help.
"It's really odd because we're usually the one who's stepping up to help, and here we are in a position in which we need help," Connelly said. "This program is tremendously important."
Both local and state groups offered donations to ensure hundreds of children had a place to go after school. Woodland Presbyterian provided a building, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi donated $45,000 for replacement transportation and equipment.
"The money will be used to purchase a replacement bus for 150 children who are transported from the schools to the Boys and Girls Club," said Sheila Grogan, vice president, community and public relations for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi. "Funds will also be used out of that contribution for the replacement of supplies that were lost in the storm including games, sports equipment, arts and crafts supplies."
Connelly said, "It's really neat to see all the state organizations and community organizations and private citizens come together to help us make a difference."
Epting said she is happy to be back with her friends.
"I get to see some familiar faces," she said.
Connelly said repairs to the permanent buildings could take six to nine months, and the club is still looking for donations in the meantime.
Donations can be sent to The Boys and Girls Club P.O. Box 1750, Hattiesburg, MS 39403.