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Family Assistance Fund giving storm victims new lease on life

News Staff Writer

When monetary donations began steadily pouring in after the March 18 wind event that cost at least six Big Oak Trailer Park families their homes and all or most of their belongings, Huxford Elementary School Principal Leah Fuqua stepped in to establish a central fund into which the incoming money could be kept.
Fuqua said last week the First National Bank & Trust account has already paid dividends for some of the storm victims by providing the one thing they most need — a place to live.
“Initially, I opened the account to provide a centralized and formal manner to house the monetary donations where I would have a means of collecting the monetary resources that people were giving toward the effort,” Fuqua said. “The account has enough money in it to provide the displaced families a down payment and security deposit for them to secure new rentals. I have met with the landlord for two of the families and already provided this funding to them for such purpose.”
Fuqua pointed out that the funds have been administered on behalf of the victims, “based on family need” in dealing with the shortage of living spaces available in Atmore and the immediate area.
“The funds are being distributed as families secure housing,” she explained. “As the community is well aware, affordable and secure housing is a need in our area.”
Once enough financial assistance has been doled out to accommodate the housing needs of all the affected families, she said, the account would be closed, as would the former A.C. Moore Elementary School building that has been used as collection point for donated clothing, food and other necessities.
“After all funds are distributed, the account will be closed,” the HES principal said. “The old A.C. Moore School has also been a drop-off location which was opened during set days and time frames to take in donations of clothing and household items. Once (all the) families secure new housing, and these items are distributed to families, this will also be closed.”
Fuqua, who requested and received permission from Superintendent of Education Michele McClung to allow use of the school by storm victims and emergency responders, pointed out that she isn’t the only individual who has taken a deep personal interest in the plight of the weather casualties.
In fact, she said, she and a dedicated de facto disaster relief team joined forces to make things happen for the victims.
“This endeavor was in no way a one-woman venture,” she said. “There were an army of volunteers and community members who stepped up to help these families in their time of need. I only helped coordinate and organize the efforts as best as I could in the moment.”
Fuqua said the number of volunteers increased at such a rapid rate and in such a widespread manner, she could barely keep up with them. She added that Divine Intervention also played a large role in guiding the recovery effort.
“I would be remiss if I tried to list everyone involved, as I worry (that) I would miss someone,” she explained. “I will say the Huxford community, the city of Atmore and surrounding communities immediately showed up to provide for these families when they have seen a need. And they are still doing so.
“The Huxford School staff and employees from around the (Escambia County School) District have pitched in and helped throughout the continued process of recovery. From the moment we opened Huxford School on March 18th to the families, to the current date, God has sent individuals to stand in the gap to provide for our students’ families’ needs.”