NEWPORT, Ark. (KAIT) - When tragedy strikes, have you ever noticed “the helpers” who swing into action?
Andy May is always among them in Jackson County.
Never was that more apparent than when Sydney Sutherland went missing in August.
The story that tore at the very heart of a Region 8 community led May to help.
A young nurse, Sutherland went missing while jogging this past August.
Authorities and search teams looked desperately for the young woman much loved by this community. It would soon be learned that a local farmer--someone known to her--would stand accused in her rape and murder.
“It was almost surreal,” Andy May, October’s Gr8 Acts of Kindness winner said. “I mean you just can’t believe that happens here. I mean you know you hear about things happening like that in bigger cities.”
Once the shock wore off, May and his friend, Michael Due, set to work cooking Boston Butts to raise money for Sutherland’s family.
“I originally started out with the idea of doing about 200 and then it was like 250 and then it was 300,” May said. “I was calling the guy at the grocery store.”
As orders grew, so did problems with Mother Nature as a powerful storm rolled through and tornado warnings went into effect.
“It got so bad, at one point, that we had to evacuate,” May said. “We had all of our fires going and the rain just came in and hit everything. Cooled everything down. Sucked all the heat out of the grills. So we pretty much had to start over.”
By getting over 1,000 pounds of charcoal and cookers donated from all over the area.
“Unfortunately, I’m not a millionaire and I can’t just write a check,” May said. “But, I can cook.”
And he can get volunteers to help.
“Everybody pitched in to make this happen,” May said.
Orders and donations poured in.
“I had a lady from Arizona and her son had gotten murdered several years ago and I think she sent in $105,” May said.
All totaled, the Boston Butt sale raised $11,575.90.
What started small, grew big.
One hundred-fifty orders went to 250, then 300 and eventually 408 Boston Butts exactly.
An ironic number... fast forward to today.
“You are the next winner in the Gr8 Acts of Kindness,” I said.
“One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five, six, seven, eight. $408 dollars!” I count out into his hand.
Andy’s wife works as the executive director of a center for adults with developmental disabilities and he helps to fundraise for them wearing all kinds of costumes and jumping into the river.
"He can’t say “no.” He will not say “no” to anything or anybody," Joey Treadway said.
May is on the Newport City Council. He is anxious to see the town grow.
“The building is going to be built in the parking lot of that tall building,” May said.
His enthusiasm for the community knows no bounds... from helping seniors to secure the right health benefit plans to play in a band that raises money for charity, Andy May is right where he wants to be.
“He’s kind of one of those people when you meet him, you’re a friend of his,” Tara Salinas, one of May’s high school classmates and a co-worker. “If he’s met you one, he knows you and he will do anything in the world for you.”
“Andy has a giant heart. He’s a giant man with a giant heart,” Julie Allen, Executive Director of the Newport Chamber said. “And we love him for it.”
All proceeds from the Boston Butt sale went to the Sydney Sutherland Memorial Scholarship established at ASU-Newport.
Sydney was a graduate of ASUN’s practical nursing program.