FREEPORT, Bahamas — Three planes comprising Middle Tennessee State University’s third Raider Relief mission to the Bahamas delivered about 6,000 pounds in relief supplies Friday, Sept. 20, to the families of students enrolled at MTSU who were affected by Hurricane Dorian.
Tiara Ashley Brown, president of MTSU’s Bahamian Student Organization, accompanied President Sidney A. McPhee, Board of Trustees Vice Chairman Darrell Freeman and Chip Crunk, CEO of R.J. Young Co. in Nashville, on the mission, which also delivered donations gathered by Brown’s student group.
Terry Dorris, an associate professor in MTSU’s Department of Aerospace, again flew one of the university’s planes to the island commonwealth as part of the effort.
The university has 51 students enrolled from the Bahamas, seven of which have families in the most affected areas of Grand Bahama and Abaco islands. McPhee, a native of the Bahamas, reached out to all seven families in the impact zone before each trip to determine their needs.
“The hurricane isn’t the lead headline any more back home, but the needs are just as dire and grave for the people we are trying to help as it was on Day One,” McPhee said.
Brown was greeted at the Grand Bahama International Airport in Freeport by her parents and family members, who delivered goods and supplies collected by the student group. A Freeport church contacted by McPhee again served as the distribution hub for materials intended for the MTSU students’ families.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” said Brown, a senior in the College of Basic and Applied Sciences and a senator in MTSU’s Student Government Association.
Freeman and Crunk donated use of their personal aircraft and fuel for the trips, while Dorris’ flight expenses aboard MTSU’s aircraft came from the roughly $70,000 in donations from community members, which also covered the costs of the goods for the families.
“Based on the destruction, it is very clear that we are making a difference in peoples’ lives,” Freeman said.
Officials put the death toll thus far at 50 from the Category 5 hurricane, which hit and lingered over the island commonwealth on Sept. 1. About 2,500 people are listed as missing, and 70,000 people were left homeless from the storm.
Friday’s three-plane mission was the third trip for Raider Relief, which has so far delivered a total of 12,000 pounds of supplies. Freeman and Dorris each flew aircraft to the Bahamas on two earlier missions on Sept. 8 and Sept. 11.
Freeman also piloted his plane for the first Raider Relief mission to Puerto Rico in 2017, which came to the aid of the family of former MTSU basketball player Raymond Cintron after landfall there by the Category 4 Hurricane Maria.
Community members can still give to the effort by texting RAIDERRELIEF — all one word — to 41444 from your mobile device. You can also go to the university’s main website, mtsu.edu/supportraiderrelief, for information on how to give.
McPhee and others also toured the University of The Bahamas-North on Grand Bahama Island, which was devastated by the storm.
The satellite of the main university in Nassau, which served about 500 students, was left in ruins from the hurricane. Neither of the two main structures on the 50-acre campus — the academic and administration building and its main dormitory — is habitable.
“It is heartbreaking to bear witness to what appears to be the complete loss of a fine campus,” McPhee said.
— Andrew Oppmann (Andrew.Oppmann@mtsu.edu)