Concord Alumni Association Aids in Flood Relief

For Immediate Release: 
Nov 13 2001

Concord Alumni Association Aids in Flood Relief

Athens, W.Va. - Devastating—that’s how many described the July 8 flood that affected much of southern West Virginia. Many groups and individuals made significant contributions to help those who lost cherished personal possessions, cars, trucks, and in some instances—homes. Most didn’t think about the loss incurred by children: Bluefield, Va., residents Billy Rose and his wife, Rosemarie, however, did.

After witnessing the devastation to friends, neighbors, and families, the Roses’ knew they had to help, they just didn’t know how.

Shortly after the flood, Rosemarie took their daughter on a shopping trip to purchase school supplies. After returning from the trip, Rosemarie knew what to do.

The idea of helping school children with their supplies in times of hardship was a perfect fit for the Roses.

Billy Rose grew up in Coalwood, W.Va., during the 1950’s with Homer Hickam and a small group of boyhood friends who wanted to learn about rockets. Their story was made popular in 1999 when the book Rocket Boys and the movie October Sky were successfully launched to a national audience. Hickam, Rose, and their boyhood friends became known as the Rocket Boys.

The Rocket Boys allot a majority of their time and energy working with the educational community. Rose said, “The Rocket Boys’ whole philosophy is that we are who we are because of education, so we had to find a way to get school supplies to these kids.” The group then started fundraising to get supplies. Rose and company spent hours making phone calls and soliciting businesses for donations concerning the project. They then worked out distribution arrangements with schools, letting the school board and teachers allocate the donated supplies.

Concord College Alumni Association President Suellen Hodges heard about the Rocket Boys flood relief efforts and wanted the College to contribute something of significance since much of the local area and attending students and families were affected by the disaster. “Concord is proud to serve our area. We raised the important issues and decided to contribute something that would directly benefit the children.”

A $2,000 check was presented to Billy Rose on Friday, October 12 in Concord College’s Alumni Lounge. The Rocket Boys raised a total of $40,000 to purchase school supplies and clothing including over 10,000 notebooks, 2,000 packages of filler paper, and 200 winter coats—exceeding their original goal by $20,000.

An enthusiastic Rose said, “We’re very pleased the drive exceeded our expectations and we appreciate every donation.” Sue Ellen Hodges responded, “It’s a really good feeling to know we’ve helped.”

Contributions may be sent to Rocket Boy Flood Relief Fund, Bluefield, Va. 24605.

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Photo: Billy Rose, Suellen Hodges

Concord College Notes: Jessica Taylor wrote this press release. Her hometown is Beckley, W.Va. She is majoring in English/writing with a minor in journalism. Her anticipated graduation date is May 2003.