By the end of the school year, Delora Beasley had all the money she needed to go to Europe.
After the community opened its hearts and wallets, the rising senior at Hephzibah High School had about $1,000 extra to use as spending money.
Delora is one of two local students invited to take part in the United States Collegiate Wind Band. Gerald Yarbray Jr., a student at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School is the other. The two left July 3 on a performance tour that includes St. Paul's Cathedral in London, among other European locations.
The United States Collegiate Wind Band is comprised of 100 students from around the country. Participation in the band is by invitation only, but the band does not pay for the privilege.
Delora's parents are divorced and her mother, Paula Kohli, who has custody of Delora couldn't afford to pay for the trip.
"I'm a little worried, but moms always worry. This will be her first time this far away from home," said Mrs. Kohli. She's worked hard keeping up in classes while working and practicing her clarinet. I'm really proud of her. She'll go to places I've only read about in history books."
Delora had all but given up hope of going on the tour until Margie Williams took up the task of rallying the community to help send her on a trip.
Mrs. Williams is a 56-year-old grandmother who baby-sits her four grandchildren nearly every day, sells ice cream at Hephzibah High School five days a week during the school year, attends church on Sundays and volunteers with the March of Dimes as well as the American Cancer Society and other organizations. Mrs. Williams is also a person who encourages young people to pursue their dreams and to take advantage of opportunities.
"I'm just a regular woman, I try to do everything and as much as I can to help people and to be a good neighbor. I've never had to raise that much money and for one person - it was a big undertaking," said the Alabama native who has lived in the Augusta area for the past 31 years.
Mrs. Williams called upon businesses, city officials, civic organizations, doctors, lawyers and banks to help raise the $5,000 needed to send a child, one she barely knew, to Europe. She also baked goods for a bake sale, went door-to-door and opened up her home for a yard sale. All money she earned from these activities was given to Delora, said Mrs. Williams.
"I was overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and response from the entire community. It came from all over Augusta, Hephzibah, North Augusta, Aiken, Thompson, Martinez, rich people, poor people, everybody wanted to give- it was just amazing," said Mrs. Williams.
Mrs. Williams paid for Delora's round-trip plane fare and for some of the youth's clothing out of her own pocket - money the woman says she doesn't want back.
But before Delora left on her trip, reality still had not set in.
"I haven't started packing or anything. I'm always one to wait till the last minute anyway. But I am starting to get butterflies now," said Delora. "Organizers have already sent me some music and I've been practicing. I really don't know what to say. Without Mrs. Williams none of this would be possible. She did everything- she got the whole community together to make this happen."
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