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Local woman coordinates event to help tornado victims

HATTIESBURG, Miss. - The January tornado that hit the Pine Belt greatly affected the Hattiesburg and Petal communities, killing four people, injuring dozens, and destroying over 1,100 homes and businesses, including William Carey University.

"It was just like a bomb had gone off and it was just terrible. And, I'm just amazed more people didn't die in this," said Audrey Jackson, President of The Pinebelt Pacers Running Club.

Jackson decided to make a difference and help the tornado victims as best as she could.

"I said what can I do to help the community. What do I know to do? And the thing that I know how to do is I can coordinate runs from every aspect of an event for a run. So, that's what I know and that's what my passion is," said Jackson.

Jackson and The Pinebelt Pacers Running Club contacted The Greater PineBelt Foundation and implemented the Pine Belt Strong 4-Mile Run, 2-Mile March during a time when many thought our nation was becoming divided.

"It was good for people I feel to see in our community. We marched in support of community, not against anything. We all came together no matter our religion, no matter our income level, no matter our political affiliations. It didn't matter. It was a good experience for our community to come together. Sort of unity in the community," said Jackson.

More than 150 runners and marchers participated in the event and helped raise over $17,000.

Winners received awards that were made out of debris.

"You can take something away from bad events and create something good, and that's what we did," said Jackson.

Jackson said all of the proceeds went to The Greater PineBelt Foundation and it will be used to help the long-term needs of people affected by the tornado.



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