Paying it forward: Hope for Donalsonville raises thousands

Several families fron Donalsonville Ga., were presented with checks for $500 as part of the town of Eclectic’s Holiday Hope for Donalsonville fundraiser. (Submitted/The Observer)

Eclectic community members recently donated thousands to a small Georgia city that was devastated by Hurricane Michael in October.

According to volunteer Stephanie Southerland, the town’s Holiday Hope for Donalsonville initiative raised $7,000 for families in need.

On Dec. 20, Southerland took a trip to Donalsonville and distributed a check for $500 among 14 families based on a recommendation by the city. Additionally, Southerland said the families received handmade cards from local kindergarteners.

“One lady has been battling breast cancer, so the money will help her with medical bills. Another lady’s husband has also been battling cancer,” Southerland said. “They each had an extreme need and we hoped to partially meet it.”

While the city is making progress, Southerland said Donalsonville still has much to accomplish during its rebuilding process.

“There are still lots of roofs with tarps over them. There are still a lot of debris on the side of the road that need to be picked up,” Southerland said. “It’s still pretty devastated.”

Donalsonville City Manager Steven Hicks said the community is grateful for all of Eclectic’s help.

“The timing of it was really good, especially since it was the holidays. We were very pleased and very touched by the actions of Eclectic,” Hicks said. “Several of the families have children.”

Hicks said the donations also helped the community as a whole by alleviating some of the city’s financial strains.

“This is going to be a long-term building project, so it relieves the community when resources are coming from outside the community,” Hicks said.

After a tornado hit Eclectic in 2011 and killed four people, Southerland said the town received a lot of aid from other communities. When Hurricane Michael hit, Sutherland said many locals felt compelled to help a community similar to theirs.

For herself and many others involved with Hope for Donalsonville, Southerland said the reward was intrinsic.

“I think it was probably more of a blessing to me than it was for some of them,” Southerland said. “We got lots of ‘God bless yous.’ I think they were truly surprised that a community of our size was able to do all of this.”

In the future, Hicks said Donalsonville plans to follow Eclectic’s example.

“One of our first pledges is that we will pay it forward,” Hicks said.

Initially, Hicks said many Donalsonville residents planned to participate in Eclectic’s Christmas Parade, which was cancelled due to weather. Despite not being able to come to Eclectic, Hicks said the municipalities plan to stay in contact.

“We’ll be reaching out to them further in the future, especially to express our gratitude,” Hicks said.

While officially establishing a sister-city relationship with Eclectic has not been seriously discussed, Hicks said he has heard it mentioned and Donalsonville would be interested.

Southerland said they will continue to raise funds for the next couple of months and are encouraging people to send donations to the Southwest Georgia Community Foundation.