Terry Barron, left, helps Scott Burns turn on the lights of some patriotic top hats before passing them out to residents gathering in the food court for lunch at The Mall at Barnes Crossing Friday as Burns raises money for the “7 Days for the Troops” charity.

For the past 15 years, Scott Burns has spent the week before the Fourth of July camped out at The Mall at Barnes Crossing. It is a voluntary deployment, of sorts, for the Gulf War veteran.

The retired Marine, who lost his leg in 2012 as a result of ongoing complications from an injury he received in combat in the 90s, started the 7 Days for the Troops fundraiser in 2007. He slept outside, raffled off a few items and raised a little bit of money that year.

This year – now sleeping inside with a main stage highlighting the much bigger event – Burns raised more in four days than in any previous year. In fact, he had more than doubled the previous record of $18,000, ending just shy of raising $40,000.

The money Burns raises goes to the Purple Hearts Home and stays in the area. This is the ninth year Burns has partnered with Purple Hearts Home. During that time, they have helped three vets in Tupelo and another 13 throughout Mississippi.

And Burns isn’t the only group seeing incredible fundraising success this year. Zell Long, chief professional officer of the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi, said they raised more than $100,000 in their first month – more than they have ever raised in that period of time.

With an additional $20,000 donation from Toyota Mississippi, they are more than halfway to their $210,000 goal with about six weeks still to go. The funds will benefit the over 2,000 youth the Boys & Girls Clubs of North Mississippi locations in Tupelo, Oxford, Ripley and New Albany serve annually.

This level of giving is inspiring, especially after 2020 was such a difficult time on so many – particularly those who were already in need. But it also should not be all that surprising. Mississippi is one of the most charitable states in the nation, and Northeast Mississippi has always been blessed with people who support their community and the organizations that are trying to help those most in need.

In a time when there is so much anger and discourse in politics and on social media, it is nice to hear these kinds of stories. It is even nicer to know that, at the local level among our neighbors and friends, giving hearts are still prevailing.

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