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Businessman leading tornado relief effort

Lincoln County citizens sent love, prayers and needed supplies1,400 miles to Haiti after the earthquake there in January, and nowthat same help is needed right up the road.

Local toy store manager Joe Fleming is using his business, JustKiddin’ of Brookhaven, as a drop-off point for anyone wishing tosend supplies to help sustain residents of central Mississippi whowere made homeless by a tremendous storm that passed through thearea Saturday. The effort is being coordinated with the MississippiCommission for Volunteer Service.

“If anyone is doing their spring cleaning and runs across someold clothes they don’t need, bring them to me,” Fleming said.

Ten people were killed and scores left homeless Saturday when areported F4 tornado almost two miles wide churned across anapproximately 90-mile path stretching from Vicksburg to Durant.More than 750 homes were damaged by the twister’s 170 mph winds,with almost 200 of those destroyed. Gov. Haley Barbour has declareda state of emergency for 17 counties.

Fleming said the most pressing needs listed by MCVS are forclean, folded clothes, personal hygiene products and bottled water.Plans call for him to hold donated supplies at his store until thevolunteer commission sends a U-Haul truck to pick them up weekly.Supplies will be taken to a church in Jackson before being shippedout to the affected areas, starting with Yazoo County, thehardest-hit location.

“It’s devastation up there,” Fleming said. “They’re askinganyone with chainsaws and pickup trucks to go up there andvolunteer.”

MCVS is expected to expand the supply list and widen the servicearea later, Fleming said. He expects several local volunteers willbe ready to donate instantly with supplies left over from recentvolunteer missions. He still has several bags of clothes that weredestined for Haiti he plans to send through MCVS.

Fleming is hoping the volunteer effort catches on.

“It’s the right thing for this community to do. If it were us,we’d be hoping they’d do the same thing,” he said. “They’reMississippians just like us, and we need to focus on them.”

If the effort catches on beyond Fleming’s store’s capabilities,the Lincoln Civic Center will be used as the collection point fordonated items, said facility manager Quinn Jordan.

“No community wants to be affected in this way,” he said. “Whenone of our communities is affected, that’s what these centers andfacilities are made for, to support the citizens of our area.”

Items may be also be donated to those affected by the stormthrough the National Donations Network of Mississippi by visitingwww.aidmatrixnetwork.org. Volunteers can register to work in theaffected areas by signing up at www.volunteermississippi.org or bycalling 1-888-353-1793.

More volunteer information can be found at the MississippiEmergency Management Agency’s website at www.msema.org.