By the Way

Saving the Coast . . . one person at a time

By ANITA LEE Twitter/Facebook

They like to pick on me in the Sun Herald newroom -- yes, they do -- about "saving the Coast one person at a time."

When I get a call about someone going through a hard time, my inclination is to write a story about their circumstances and hope readers help.

The GoFundMe page for Sandra Camphor, a retired teacher from Ocean Springs High School, leaped out at me as I was working on a story about Coast residents with accounts.

I messaged Tori Fletcher, a former Ocean Springs High School student who set up the account. Because we are not Facebook friends, the message went to oblivion, which I realized might happen.

I wrote the GoFundMe story and moved on. Then I heard from Tori, who hated that she missed the chance to tell the community about her former teacher's plight.

Lightning felled a tree that landed on her roof months after she was forced to retire for medical reasons.

Tori's father, Mike Fletcher, has been at her house every day since, after he gets off work at Ingalls, to reconstruct the house and make it more comfortable and handicapped-accessible for Ms. Camphor.

She had enough on her plate financially with the medical bills and early retirement. The damage to her modest home is more than she could manage.

She didn't want to ask for help. She was raised to help others and that's what she did during her years as a teacher. Her knowledge of literature and passion for theater motivated her students to excel. The theater program she built is an award-winner.

She spent countless hours after school with students rehearsing and preparing for their productions. There was no extra pay involved.

I talked to Ms. Camphor on Tuesday afternoon when we published her story online. I told her I hope she is back in her house soon.

She is staying with the Fletcher family, whose faith in God and drive to help others is a true inspiration.

I've been burned more than once by story subjects who were less than honest about their circumstances. I blame my own naivety.

But I persist, despite the good-natured ribbing of my colleagues. (You know who you are!)

The Ms. Camphors of the world keep me from giving up. They have offered their talents and compassion and are deserving of the same.

Anita Lee is s staff writer for the Sun Herald.