A hurricane brought him to Alabama the first time and a tornado the second.
Benny, who lives in coastal Louisiana, was here two weeks ago to drop off $1,300 for tornado relief. He raised the money in 10 days by selling cups of that sweet mix-at-home beverage everyone of a certain generation grew up drinking.
Kool-Aid learned of Benny’s largesse and decided to increase his donation to tornado relief to the tune of $10,000. And because it just wouldn’t be right for Benny to miss it, Kool-Aid is flying Benny and his parents to Birmingham, where they’ll be met by the St. Clair Times’ own Gary Hanner and driven to the Shoal Creek Valley for the check presentation to the Mid-Alabama chapter of the American Red Cross.
Benny was moved to help Alabama’s tornado victims because people in Alabama welcomed his family when they fled Hurricane Rita back in 2005. The Barneses live in Lake Charles, just a few miles north of the Gulf of Mexico. When the hurricane took aim at their town, they had to evacuate for two weeks.
Six years later, Benny saw the devastation in the Shoal Creek Valley and realized that it was near the Attalla home of his parents’ friends who had sheltered his family during the hurricane. He remembered the generosity of the Alabamians and wanted to return the favor.
Word spread about what Benny intended to do with the proceeds of his Kool-Aid sales, and donations of other items began pouring in. When he and his family visited the Shoal Creek Valley June 4, they delivered not only the cash Benny had collected, but also more than $8,000 worth of clothing, some from as far away as Nebraska and California.
Benny has made many friends in Alabama and will always be welcome here. Perhaps someday he can make a visit just because he wants to, with a friendly wind at his back.