Life has been tough for Marikay DeCrow since her husband was killed in a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, earlier this month.
"He was my husband, and he was my best friend. He was my whole life," she said of Army Staff Sgt. Justin DeCrow. "There is no coping."
Staff Sgt. DeCrow and 12 others died during the Nov. 5 rampage at the Army post, where he was awaiting a yearlong deployment to Iraq.
Neighbors and Columbia County school officials showed their support Friday for the DeCrow family with a $5,775 check given to Mrs. DeCrow at Evans Middle School, where daughter Kylah is a seventh-grader.
"I'm just overwhelmed," Mrs. DeCrow said. "I'm just so grateful to everyone who has been there to help us."
The money was raised at the school, which sought donations from staff, pupils and the community.
"I've just been amazed by this community," said Evans Middle Principal Mike Johnson. "With times as tough as they are and with the holidays approaching, we were expecting to get $500 or $1,000.
"But the way this community has stepped up to help out has just been unbelievable."
More than half of the donations resulted from the efforts of Ronnie Michaels, Taylor Auto Group's used car manager.
Mr. Michaels, whose son Blake is an eighth-grader at Evans Middle, said he read about the fundraising effort and was compelled to help. He reached out to other car dealerships and friends for donations and raised $3,525.
"If you can't help out the kids, who can you help?" Mr. Michaels asked.
Donations will continue to be accepted in Kylah's name and should be sent to 2508 Grier Circle, Evans, GA 30809.
The money will be used to further Kylah's education, Mrs. DeCrow said.
Kylah, who went back to school Monday, has taken the loss of her father as well as can be expected, her mother said.
"I don't think it has really hit her yet," Mrs. DeCrow said. "Everywhere she goes her father is so honored. She's been hearing so many wonderful things about Justin, I don't think she's had time to process what's happened."
Between attending numerous memorial services and burying her husband near their hometown of Plymouth, Ind., Mrs. DeCrow also has had difficulty finding time to grieve, she said.
"It's been very hard," she said as she wept. "How does anyone ever cope with something like this?"
Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or firstname.lastname@example.org.