July 20, 2011 7:32:00 AM
SMITHVILLE -- After collecting household goods the past two weekends, University of Mississippi Athletics personnel delivered Tuesday a load of items to the Smithville community as part of the Rebel Relief Project.
More than 25 Ole Miss representatives worked with the United Way of Monroe County and citizens of Smithville and the surrounding areas to unload the Rebels'' 18-wheel equipment truck and another University van that were loaded with donated items.
The large group of helpers unloaded the vehicles in quick fashion. It took roughly two hours to get boxes of items from the truck to categorized areas within a large warehouse that the United Way has been using to collect donated goods from throughout the state of Mississippi for the tornado-stricken area.
"It''s a great day to be able to give back and help others," said Ole Miss Senior Executive Associate Athletics Director John Hartwell, one of the many volunteers. "Obviously, the folks of Smithville have gone through a lot. Just to be able to provide a very small bit of help to them in their recovery effort is great. The people here have been so nice and so appreciate."
The Rebel Relief Project began collecting items at the Oxford Walmart on July 10. It also collected items at the Ole Miss Ladies'' Football Forum on July 16 and filled an 18-wheel equipment truck. Chyna Ward-Poley coordinated the effort with the help of the Ladies'' Forum.
"There''s nothing like giving," said Rebel football coach Houston Nutt, another of the volunteers. "I''m just really proud of Ole Miss. Chyna did a good job of getting this thing kick-started, and everybody has jumped on. It''s about giving every day. Our players will learn a valuable lesson. There''s nothing like having that heart and that spirit of giving and always trying to lift somebody up, whether it''s a tornado victim or just anybody that''s sick or not as well off as you. You''re just always trying to make a difference."
"It was unbelievable to see how many from our athletics department were here and how many people from Smithville and surrounding counties were here. Driving through and seeing the devastation was kind of overwhelming. There''s so much help that they need, but at least we''re here today to help. I really hope Rebel Relief (continues to exist). It doesn''t have to be some kind of disaster. I hope that we''ll be able to seek out people that need help instead of waiting for something like this to happen."
Ole Miss Associate Athletics Director Jamil Northcutt, another volunteer, enjoyed talking with members of the community. He said the project was a reality check for every-day life.
"Sometimes we get distracted and caught up in our everyday lives, and we don''t realize what really matters - our family, friends, and helping other people," Northcutt said.
Patti Parker, executive director of the United Way in Monroe County, echoed those thoughts and praised all of the volunteers for their support.
"United Way has been operating this warehouse since the day after the tornado, and God has put so many great folks in our path," Parker said. "We''re just amazed at the amount of stuff that Rebel Relief was able to send our way. It''s been absolutely fantastic for our community."