"Thank you so very much for these scholarships. Oh, I'll be able to keep my girls close to home. This is so wonderful!"
Faith Tipton-Smith was tearful, but with an ear-to-ear smile, as she learned from Dr. J. Thomas Isherwood that her two daughters had been awarded full tuition scholarships to Reinhardt College. She shared a heart-felt hug with Isherwood, the Reinhardt president as he handed her a Reinhardt sweatshirt and a Reinhardt Mom mug.
Only eight days before, her family had been greeted by the crew from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition with the news that their home was going to be completed as they enjoyed a vacation in California for a week.
The day before they had helped shout, "Move That Bus," and saw their completed home. Countless teams of workmen with the support of literally thousands of volunteers had worked around the clock for almost seven days to complete the project. At the press conference, she also already learned that RBC Centura had led a successful fund raising drive and would be paying off her mortgage and Cherokee State Bank was opening a checking account in her name. All this after thousands of volunteers and countless work crews had completed building her dream home.
"There were two families affected by this tragedy, yours and your good friend Elaine Yurewich," Isherwood said to Tipton-Smith during a press conference on Friday, Jan. 19, 2007. Isherwood was referring to the car accident almost two years ago which resulted in the death of Tipton-Smith's son and Yurewich's son, Alex. Alex was a familiar face on the Reinhardt campus because his mom has worked in the campus bookstore for many, many years.
Isherwood then announced a new scholarship and asked the community to help expand its impact. "It is my pleasure today to announce the formal creation of the Alex Yurewich and Ransom Tipton Memorial Scholarship Fund." The first recipients of these scholarships will be the Tipton-Smith daughters, Missy and Emily, and Ms. Yurewich and her daughter, Corinne. "The scholarship will benefit your two girls, but it is our desire to have a fund available for years to come for families who have had their lives disrupted by tragedy,' he said.
The Tipton-Smith daughters, Missy age 16, and Emily age 8, will have years before they can enroll at Reinhardt, but the Yurewiches will begin receiving assistance this summer. Elaine is a senior at Reinhardt majoring in art. She hopes to continue her studies on the master's level and to someday work in art therapy. Her daughter, also an art major, attends Kennesaw State University.
As Tipton-Smith answered questions from the media, she talked about the importance of attitude and how she tried to be an example for her daughters. "I try to be strong for my girls," she said, "but it's been a tough two years. This will be a new start for my family."
Tony Perry, the owner of Oakood Homes, LLC, the builder leading the Extreme Makeover project, ended up being the catalyst for the scholarship request. "I rode up with my good friend Mark Gibbs to see what I was getting into, and on the way back past the College, he said, "You should go ask the College to give scholarships to those two girls," Perry said. "I didn't know how to get that done so I called my good friend Marguerite Cline and she said she would get with her friend Edna Cook, and they would go see the [Reinhardt College] president."
Cline and Cook, both Reinhardt alumnae and closely connected to the College, visited with President Isherwood, and he quickly agreed to their request.
Enthusiasm for volunteering at the build site has been high on the Reinhardt campus, but the many who know the Yurewiches' connection to the featured family have also quietly expressed concern. "I've heard from a number of students, faculty, staff and alumni who know Elaine's story," said Reinhardt communications staffer Marsha White. "My prayer is that the assistance that she and her daughter, as well as many others, will receive from the new scholarship will help them know that they are cared about by people both near and far. Though nothing can change the past, if we join together, we can make their future more secure."
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