Jennifer Garner, the Hollywood actress and former Charleston resident, has raised more than $500,000 for flood relief in West Virginia.
This does not include the money from her “West Virginia Strong” T-shirt sales, nor the more than $120,000 raised at a fundraiser held Tuesday evening, hosted by the star and her childhood friend, state Sen. Corey Palumbo at University of Charleston.
The event, originally meant to be a fundraiser for Palumbo’s re-election campaign, was held to benefit Herbert Hoover High School. It offered those who bought a ticket the chance to mingle with Garner, while enjoying an open bar and light hors d’oeuvres.
The proceeds from the fundraiser will help the school pay for items such as new athletic and band uniforms, computers, sports equipment and shop tools. Since drinks, food, entertainment and the venue were donated, Palumbo said 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the cause.
Save the Children, an international nonprofit for which Garner serves on the Board of Trustees, will collect the money and reserve it for the school. The organization also waived the administration fee for collecting donations.
Garner visited Herbert Hoover High School Saturday. She toured the building with Principal Mike Kelley, who explained the extensive damages the school faced.
He called himself “humbled” while attending the fundraiser Tuesday.
“This event and all of those acts of kindness that people have offered, it does more than clean up. It does more than just give money to the cause,” Kelley said. “It gives people hope and there’s nothing in the world more powerful than hope.”
He thanked Garner, elected officials, and guests in attendance for their generosity and assistance over the past few weeks.
“When someone like Jennifer comes here, it shines a national spotlight on this effort and it keeps it in the front of people’s minds,” he said. “It keeps the thoughts and the prayers and all of the resources flowing our way.”
Kelley said though there is a long road ahead of the school, he feels they are headed in the right direction.
“We are going to be back, and we’re going to be stronger than ever and it’s going to be because of our students, and our staff, and our community,” he said.
Palumbo called Kelley “the right man to lead the school at this time.”
“He’s got a monumental challenge on his hands to educate these kids in a difficult environment,” Palumbo said. “This will hopefully help a little bit.”
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin also attended the event, along with several other elected officials.
“Many of these folks have been working tirelessly on flood relief efforts, specifically I think (Delegate) Andrew Byrd and (Sen.) Chris Walters and (House Speaker) Tim Armstead,” Palumbo said. “This isn’t a partisan, political issue, these are just people who are working hard to help the community recover and I appreciate that.”
Manchin called Garner “a dear friend.”
“We have the model for how you take care of people because we take care of each other,” he said. “Every time there’s a disaster, every time there is a challenge, West Virginia rises to the occasion.”
Manchin said he and his wife first became involved with Save the Children when Garner brought it to their attention while he was governor.
“If we don’t believe in our children, and give them a start, than God help us all,” he said. “This organization does so much for the kids, not just the children, but the families, to teach them to be responsible parents, to teach them how to care and to give something back.”
Garner also visited a Save the Children day care Saturday while in Elkview. She met with families affected by the flood and spoke about psychosocial health and how to handle the emotional trauma children may face after the tragedy.
“I’m so proud of the work that Save (the Children) has done in the state since then-Governor Manchin brought them in,” she said. “They see the need in our state and they see my passion about us being here, and the numbers support us continuing to be in the state.”
Garner noted that her school librarian from Oakwood Elementary, her ballet teacher, her neighbors from growing up, and her classmates from George Washington High School, were in attendance.
“I am here because of the community that I grew up in, and it has formed who I am, through and through. That is so important and that’s what is going to get us through, but we do need help from the outside world and I am going to help us get it, by God,” she said.
Palumbo said he believed 250 people attended the event. Those who purchased a VIP or sponsor ticket were able to get a professional picture with the star and early access to the reception.
Garner also took the opportunity while speaking to the guests to endorse Palumbo, who is running for state Senate.
“There is no one who has your best interest at heart, in the same way that Corey does, and I know because he’s the same person he’s been since we were little kids,” she said.
The two graduated from George Washington High School together in 1990.
Garner has also teamed up with Omaze and Save the Children to sell a “West Virginia Strong” T-shirt. Proceeds go to Save the Children and their efforts in the flooded communities.
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