Quick action in the community delivers for Sandy victims

dlauderdale@islandpacket.comNovember 6, 2012 

Would you have seen the bus as half empty, or half full?

When Superstorm Sandy prevented some New Yorkers from making their annual trek to the Ella C. White Memorial Scholarship Fund banquet on Hilton Head Island last Friday, the chartered bus looked half empty.

But when it pulled out for home Sunday morning, its luggage compartment was filled with supplies for storm victims -- all pulled together in less than 12 hours by members of five island churches.

Carolyn Campbell was thinking about the storm as she rode home from the banquet with Emory and Emma Campbell. She concluded that any help would have to wait until after all the Christmas shoe boxes got filled at church.

She was still discussing it at home with her husband, Irvin, when a light went off.

"God sent that bus down here for a reason," she said. "Is the bus half empty, or is it half full? It was our best way to get help directly to people who need it now."

On Saturday morning, Campbell checked with her pastor at Central Oak Grove Baptist Church. He gave it a go. She called key leaders at four other churches: First African Baptist, Queen Chapel AME, St. James Baptist and Mount Calvary Missionary Baptist.

Word spread to bring supplies to the church on Mathews Drive from noon to 8 p.m. that day. The Stoney/Squire Pope Property Owners Association also got involved.

"The response was overwhelming," Campbell said. "I'm getting goose bumps now thinking about it."

When Campbell left the church at 9:30 p.m., her prayer was that all the supplies would fit on the bus. Stacked and boxed neatly in the fellowship hall were cases of water, canned food, flashlights, batteries, paper goods, baby supplies, warm sweaters, blankets, coats, gloves, hats and scarves.

Mary and John Bethea of New York City -- who organize the annual bus trip -- agreed to get the supplies distributed with the help of his Masonic lodge to people in the Far Rockaway and Brighton Beach neighborhoods.

Mary is the last surviving sister of Ella C. White, an inspiring Hilton Head math teacher whose life was cut short but whose influence lives on in college scholarships.

The theme of Friday's banquet with actress Tonea Stewart was "40 Years of Empowering Students." Over that period, 700 students from Hilton Head and Bluffton high schools have been awarded $600,000 in Ella C. White scholarships.

Carolyn Campbell, who retired last year at Hilton Head Island Middle School, is new to the scholarship board and not to be confused with Mary and John Bethea's daughter, board member Carol Campbell.

She brings the board a new way to challenge the next generation:

Would you have seen the bus as half empty, or half full?

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