THOMASVILLE -- As of 2:45 p.m. Thursday, $50 was sitting in the account.

Jack Hadley, a well-known Thomasville community leader, created a checking account -- the Charles Allen Barnhill Tsunami Trip Fund -- at Thomasville National Bank early Thursday afternoon to collect funds to ultimately benefit tsunami victims.

Hadley said he felt compelled to start the account after reading an article Thursday in the Times-Enterprise that featured Barnhill, a Thomasville Police Department patrolman, whose mother is Thai. Three of Barnhill's Thai relatives died during the tsunami that ravaged Thailand and other countries in South Asia. A fourth relative was unaccounted for as of Wednesday.

The officer plans to accompany his mother to Thailand Jan. 17 to help family members there.

Community members are trying to raise at least $2,000 to pay Barnhill's airfare.

Many hope more than $2,000 will be collected. Barnhill could use the additional money to provide supplies or whatever support victims need.

Hadley said this community service project hits a special chord in his heart because donors will know their money will go directly to the people it was intended to help.

"I'm challenging every able person," Hadley said. "I challenge them, in the community, to contribute. This is one of our own people, right here in Thomasville."

Hadley said Harper Elementary School is leading the fund-raising effort.

Third grade teacher Mary Manson is heading the school collection. She met with other Harper School teachers Thursday afternoon to coordinate the campaign.

"We're trying to raise $50 from our class, and we're going to ask the community, if they can, to meet our challenge," she said.

Manson's class of 20 students is not the only one collecting money.

Fellow third grade teachers Anita Ashworth and Marie Chambers have also challenged their classes to collect $50 each.

The collection request has created a ripple effect.

All classes within the school are encouraged to participate, as is the entire community, Manson said.

"We're going to ask the children to bring in whatever they can to help this gentleman, whom we know, to show him how much we love and care for him," she said.

Given the time restraint of Barnhill's departure, Hadley and Manson said plans are to withdraw money from the checking account by Jan. 16 -- the day before Barnhill hopes to fly to Thailand.

"We wanted to cut it off on the 16th so he knows what he has to work with," Manson said.

Hadley said a check will be presented to Barnhill next week.

Jodi Snipes, personal banker at Thomasville National Bank, said anyone who wants to donate money to the cause can bring it to the bank directly or mail it.

Make checks payable to the Charles Allen Barnhill Tsunami Trip Fund, P.O. Box 1999, Thomasville, 31799. The bank is located at 301 N. Broad St.

Donations may also be made at Harper Elementary School. All money donated will be deposited into the trip fund at the Thomasville National Bank.

The Thomasville Times-Enterprise will chart the fund's progress through next week.

To reach Reporter Blenda Link, call 226-2400, ext. 227.

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