At first, we thought this would be simple: we'd ask for donations, buy a couple of air conditioners, find out who needed them, and then provide them. Things turned out to be much more complicated.
First, we had zero luck getting any local help. Everybody claimed it was a great thing to do but nobody had any real desire to do the work. It seems people around here - even churches - are very skeptical about helping others who aren't of their own flock. Everybody talked a good game but when it came down to actually giving their money, they weren't willing.
Second, we had a really hard time tracing the Community Action group that had the list of folks in need. The phone number in the original article was wrong and, when we got the right one, it was for a different group. We spent a lot of time calling all over northeast Mississippi trying desperately to find out which organization could help us. When we finally found Community Action, we took the time to vet them. They are part of a government program to help elderly, disabled, and low income families. They screen people to prevent fraud and, because they are federally funded, they do not discriminate against any person for race, religion, etc. They told us that they have lots of requests because the local Good Samaritan and Salvation Army don't provide enough help. By this time, we were thoroughly unsurprised.
There was a light at the end of this long tunnel, however. We ended up with a ton more money than we had thought we would thanks to the Friendly Atheist and his wonderful community. These people came out of the woodwork to donate to the cause and, because of their efforts, we were able to buy seven air conditions instead of just one or two. To Hemant and his readers, we thank you so much for trusting us to make the lives of the poor and elderly just a little bit better.
Here are the seven brand new air conditioners we purchased with the donated funds:
We had some money left over so we decided to go shopping and see what else we could put together for donation. This is what we found:
It may not look like much, but this is enough file folders, notebooks, pencils, and hand sanitizer for 40 kids. There are also about 20 rulers in this pack. No child should have to start school without the basic stuff!
We still had money left over after we grabbed every notebook and folder off those shelves so we went to another store and found some discount medical supplies. We decided to make some little first aid kits.
Just some basics here: alcohol, band-aids, aspirin, antibiotic ointment, and some OTC allergy relief. Not perfect but just what a Mississippian needs going into school and flu season!
So here's the financial breakdown of this campaign: