‘A community need:’ Native American tribe covering funeral costs for all of the Alabama tornado victims
LEE COUNTY, Ala. — Often times the worst situations will bring out the best in people.
That’s proving true once again, this time in southeastern Alabama, where residents are still reeling from an outbreak of tornadoes that killed 23 people this week.
But their loved ones won’t have to worry, at least, about the costs of the funerals. A Native American tribe says it will cover the funeral and burial expenses for all the victims of Sunday’s tornadoes.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians tribe will be making a $184,000 donation to cover the costs, Lee County coroner Bill Harris confirms to CNN.
The tribe increased its commitment
That’s more than the tribe had originally agreed to, but it increased its commitment when another donor that had agreed to split the costs backed out of the arrangement.
The original donation made by the tribe was going to be $50,000. However the other group stopped returning Harris’ calls, he said.
When he explained that to the tribe, it asked what it would take to cover everything. The check will be hand delivered by the tribe early next week.
“My goal was to be able to provide what the families wanted” for “this casket or this service without having to scrimp because they didn’t have the money,” Harris said. “These folks have stepped up for a community need, and I appreciate that.”
Harris did not name the company that didn’t follow through on its commitment.
The money will be donated to the East Alabama Medical Center Foundation so that none of the money is spent on administration costs.
“It is at times of greatest need that we often see our communities coming together to help one another, this is one of those times,” Stephanie A. Bryan, the tribe’s CEO, said in a Facebook post. “Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected.”
The tribe has been in Alabama for generations
Harris said he’d delivered the news personally about the funerals and burials being covered to the grandparents of Armando “AJ” Hernandez, the youngest victim. He said the two were thankful.
“I spoke with AJ’s family, his grandma and granddaddy, they were very humbled and very appreciative,” he said. “I feel so bad for them. I told them, y’all don’t worry about that (the cost), I have it covered.”
Other local organizations have come forward and donated toward the fund for the funerals, according to Harris. Additionally, a notable person from Alabama — Harris isn’t sharing the man’s name just yet — is donating $10,000 for footmarkers for the graves.
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians is the only federally recognized Native American tribe in Alabama, and it operates a number of business, including casinos and hotels, in the region. The tribe descends from the original Creek Nation that once resided in Alabama and Georgia. The tribe was never removed from its lands and has kept a presence in the area for 200 years around the Poarch, Alabama reservation.