Jackson — On April 11, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University will add another chapter in their storied rivalry when the universities’ baseball teams meet during the Entergy Mayor’s Trophy Game at Smith-Wills Stadium in Jackson. A sell-out crowd is expected, and fans of each school will certainly bring their “friendly animosity” toward each other to the ballpark.
One group will be looking to turn the fans’ inherent rivalry into a positive for kids on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. The nonprofit group HANDS, dedicated to aiding in Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, is providing two 18-wheelers that will be parked at Smith-Wills during the Ole Miss-State game. One truck will be designated the State truck, while the other will be marked for Ole Miss. Fans of each school are asked to bring donations of sporting goods with bragging rights on the line as to which university can supply the most donated sports items.
After the donations are collected, HANDS will distribute the gifts to kids on the Coast, many of who lost everything, including their sports equipment.
“It’s something that I never thought about before,” said Stacey Wall, president and CEO of Jackson-based Pinnacle Trust who became involved after being contacted by HANDS personnel. “Here we are, time for playing baseball and other outdoor sports, and the children on the Coast have nothing to play with. When I heard about what HANDS was doing, I thought it was great.”
One of the principals involved in HANDS, Leisha Pickering, wife of U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, stressed that this sports equipment drive was not just about State and Ole Miss. Belhaven College, Jackson State University, Mississippi College — all are encouraged to participate. For those not attending the game but would still like to contribute, drop-off points at Chimneyville Smokehouse on High Street in downtown Jackson and the HANDS headquarters located on Centre Street in Madison.
The drive is not limited to only baseball gear. HANDS will except any sports equipment as long is it is in good shape. Cash donations will also be accepted.
HANDS reaching out
HANDS (Helping Americans Needing Disaster Support) was formed literally hours after Hurricane Katrina made landfall August 29, 2005. Pickering got a call from Caroline Aderholt, Pickering’s close friend and wife of Alabama U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt. Aderholt asked Pickering what she could do, and Pickering said she saw a critical need for water. Within six hours, Aderholt had taken out a personal loan and purchased $10,000 worth of bottled water, secured a truck to ship it to Mississippi and recruited volunteers to help with distribution. The next day, Aderholt and her church sent two more truckloads of food and supplies.
From this act of generosity, HANDS was born. Pickering’s friends Scot Thigpen and Jeff Redding secured space at Christ United Methodist Church for warehousing and distributing donations. Clothing distributors, including The Rogue in Jackson, donated toward HANDS’ Mobile Clothing Project.
Greenwood-based Viking Range supplied appliances for the kitchen of the group’s Mobile Work Units. Jimmy Morton, owner of Chimneyville Smokehouse, as well as Jeff Goode of Jackson-based Bravo!/Broadstreet Restaurants, threw in their support. Within days of formation, HANDS saw its volunteers swell from 10 to more than 500.
“It’s been incredible,” said Pickering, who has worked side-by-side with Patty Peck Christy of Jackson-based Patty Peck Honda. “The generosity has been overwhelming.”
HANDS’ efforts are varied, as it has worked with other relief groups in the areas of debris removal, construction as well as supply distribution. In addition to the Mobile Clothing Project and Mobile Work Units, the group offered Thanksgiving on the Coast last Thanksgiving Day in Waveland, Chili Cook-Off held at the Mississippi Coliseum Fairgrounds in conjunction with Miss 103 radio, Exclusive Private Shopping Night offered by Belk department store at Northpark Mall in Ridgeland and Family Connection Program, a partnership effort to coordinate a network of volunteers to support the physical and emotional needs caused by Katrina.
The HANDS Distribution Center is open 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday-Friday. The physical address is 863 Centre Street in Ridgeland (the former Irby Lighting building), and the phone number is (601) 957-0094.
For more information on HANDS, visit its Web site at http://www.hands.ms/. For those who wish to send a donation, the mailing address is HANDS, P.O. Box 16449, Madison, MS 39236-6449.
Contact MBJ staff writer Wally Northway at firstname.lastname@example.org.