GULFPORT— An early morning fiery car crash in St. Petersburg that killed three young women — two cousins and their aunt — left behind grieving families, and six children without their mothers.
Jamesia Chera Santoria and Briana Lequinda Campbell died at the scene of the June 26 crash. Their aunt Grace Collier died later in the hospital.
Last December, Briana Campbell's mother, Cora Campbell, was the victim of a burglary at her Gulfport home when a robber stole the family Christmas presents.
To mitigate the loss, the Gulfport Police Department collected money to replace the stolen gifts.
Now the department is spearheading an effort to help the children who lost their mothers in the tragic car crash.
Two fundraisers, hosted by the Gulfport Police Department, will collect money to defray the costs of raising six children, 1 to 6 years old.
The first event — Three Angels With Six Blessings — is scheduled to be held Monday at Smokin' J's Texas BBQ. The second, called Gifts From Gulfport, is set for Aug. 21 at the Gulfport Casino.
Plans were already under way for the August fundraiser when Zach Mills, the police department's community resource officer, mentioned the idea to John Riesebeck, owner of Smokin' J's.
"John jumped at the chance to get involved and offered his business location to host a fundraiser in July," Mills said. "He's been fabulous."
Riesebeck contacted Gulfport businesses for donations for a raffle to raise additional monies for the families, made arrangements with Gulfport Elementary School for extra parking, secured transportation from the parking lot to Smokin' J's, asked Gulfport Neighbors to provide volunteers to serve and clean up and the city to provide tables and chairs.
"We're trying to get as much donated as possible," Riesebeck offered. "No one deserves what happened to those families."
"Gulfport is a close-knit community where everyone takes care of each other, and looks after each other," he said.
Proceeds will go to the Three Angels With Six Blessings Foundation. For information, call Zack Mills at (727) 893-1693 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diane Craig can be reached at email@example.com.