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Tornado fundraiser brainchild of girl, 12
Seventh-grader collecting supplies for students in Mo.
Joplin 1 WEB
Taylor Staton shows school supplies she collected as part of “Project Joplin.” Staton launched the program to aid tornado victims in Missouri. - photo by Autumn McBride

How to help

Residents can drop off school supplies at any of the following locations during the times listed:

• Staton Heating & Air Conditioning, 12910 Hwy. 9 in Milton; Daily in June and July, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

• Bethelview United Methodist Church, 4525 Bethelview Road; July 11-15, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

• Midway Park pavilion, 5100 Post Road; July 15, 9 to 11 a.m.

• Wills Park Equestrian Center, 11925 Wills Road in Alpharetta; July 16, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

When Taylor Staton saw the news footage of the destruction in Joplin, Mo., she felt she had to do something to help.

The powerful tornado that stormed through Joplin on May 22 caused a death toll of 156 and destroyed parts of the town, neighborhoods and Joplin High School.

“It was just so wiped out. There was nothing standing. Everything was on the ground,” Staton said. “It kind of hit me seeing that they really need help.”

At 12 years old, Staton’s options to help are limited, but the Forsyth County girl decided to launch a local school supplies drive for Joplin families affected by the disaster.

The rising seventh-grader at Vickery Creek Middle School hopes to be able to deliver 1,000 backpacks filled with supplies to the Missouri town before the start of their school year.

Since she doesn’t have a driver’s license, Staton’s dad has agreed to drive if they gather enough donations.

Staton said she chose to collect the learning materials because “parents are working hard on their houses and they don’t have time to go get school supplies.”

She’s gained some donations through her friends in drama and horse riding programs, as well as from others in the community since launching the drive about three weeks ago.

In July, Staton will kick it into high gear, with several planned dropped off locations for “Project Joplin.”

Her drive has also been adopted as the annual service project for vacation Bible school at Bethelview United Methodist Church.

Coordinator Patience Garmon said the students take on a mission each summer, often gathering donations for charities.

Project Joplin works well with what they’ve always done, Garmon said, and the VBS students can support a mission from one of their own, since Staton is involved in the church’s youth group.

Staton’s initiative at a young age impressed Garmon when she first heard about the project, but she said it wasn’t that surprising.

“She has a very giving heart,” Garmon said. “She always wants people to feel better. She’s always taking care of people. That’s just her nature.”

Staton said she always wants to do volunteer work, but age requirements for volunteers can exclude her from helping out.

She dreams of one day becoming a veterinarian and volunteering her spare time with an animal rescue.