On Tuesday, November 1, a week before the US presidential election, someone vandalised and burned down the historic 111-year-old Hopewell Baptist Church, a predominantly black Baptist church in Greenville, Mississippi.
The culprits signed this act with graffiti that said “Vote Trump.”
It was labelled a hate crime by the Greenville police, and news of it was reported by the local and national press, where Blair Reeves, a Principal Product Manager for big data software company SAS, saw the story.
Reeves is a self described “white dude” who lives in New York (recently moved from North Carolina) and has no association with the church. But after seeing the news report in the morning he launched a GoFundMe campaign then he went to work.
By the time he came home that evening, the GoFundMe had gone viral and raised over $120,000. Reeves was hoping for $10,000. The church’s Bishop Green, who had been dealing with the mess, the police and the press all day, didn’t even know the GoFundMe existed.
And the campaign is still on fire. As we write this, donations have climbed to about $259,000, and are growing every hour.
Reeves wrote an update that first night to those who had donated:
“Holy crap, y’all – we’re almost at $125,000 raised today. When I ginned up this page before my first meeting at work today, I had no earthly clue it would get so big. Thank you all so much.
Responses have been pouring in from all over the world, and they’re truly extraordinary. Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists and many more, from all over the United States and many other countries. I’ve been tweeting out some of the (anonymized) responses, and responding to questions about the campaign. Feel free to get in touch there.”
For instance, here’s a couple of tweets he shared from people who donated.
“Sending love from an Arkansas cracker. The days of people going through this while the world turns its head are over. Be strong For us all”
— Blair Reeves (@BlairReeves) November 3, 2016
Reeves is still blown away by the response
“I saw the news, hated what I saw, and fired up the GFM. I think the GoFundMe link was included on someone’s CNN and HuffPo story, which is how it first got traction, and then it started to spread on FB/Twitter. From there, as you can see, it totally went nuts,” he told Business Insider.
While donations continue to pour in, a big chunk of the money is already in the hands of the church, and Bishop Green wrote an effusive note of thanks.
“Words do not express the gratitude we have for your acts of kindness, love and support you have expressed. Whether your gift was small or great ($1-10,000 or more) we are eternally grateful,” he wrote.
Plus, a bunch of folks also volunteered to help rebuild the building, everything from architectural services to other needs, Reeves tells us.
“They will likely need to rebuild the church from the ground up – the damage was pretty bad,” Reeves says. And, although the police have been investigating, they still have no suspects, he told us.
A lot of people identifying themselves as Trump supporters wrote notes on the GoFundMe campaign as well, saying they condemn this act and all hate crimes and want the persons responsible brought to justice.
As one wrote, “The burning of a church. This is a hate crime and I’m sorry your church got caught in the middle of all this! I’m a Trump supporter but this is unthinkable and hateful.”