Support Debra Harrell

For: Debra Harrell
Organizer: Clair Ryan
Support Debra Harrell (Debra Harrell)
of $10,000 goal.
Raised by 1583 donors
100% Complete
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

MAJOR UPDATE: There has been some conflicting information in the press about Debra's employment status. Please see the update dated 7/24 for clarification.

ANOTHER WAY TO HELP: sign the petition to urge that the charges against Debra be dropped!

UPDATE: To facillitate updating donors more conveniently, I created a facebook page: Like and share to your hearts content! I will still post critical updates to this page too.

EDIT: I left out a critical detail in the original description. Ms. Harrell is no longer in jail. She has been free on bond since July 3rd, before her story went viral, but the charges against her are still pending and her daughter is still in state custody.

The unfortunate reality is that hard working Americans in low paying jobs can barely afford food and shelter let alone child care. Debra Harrell of North Augusta, SC, works in the food service industry and had previously been bringing her nine-year-old daughter to work, where she entertained herself on a laptop during mom's shift. Debra began allowing her daughter to play at a park near their home during her work shifts after the laptop was stolen from their home. The little girl was given a cell phone so she could call her mom at any time, and she also had a key to her house, which is roughly seven tenths of a mile from the mark. On June 30, when a parent at the park found out that Debra's daughter was alone and Debra was at work, the police were called. They arrested Debra for child abandonment/neglect and placed her daughter in the custody of the Department of Social Services. Debra has been free on bond since July 3rd, and her daughter, Regina, was returned to her care on July 18th, but the case against her is still pending.

To be sure, leaving a nine-year-old child out of sight and unsupervised for hours at a time is a choice that some parents would not make. However, many parents do choose to give their children a degree of independence and freedom and fondly remember enjoying the same freedoms as children themselves. It's a known fact that poor families with single and working parents struggle mightily in the summer when kids aren't able to go to school. However, it would be a very rigid reading of the SC state laws regarding child protection to consider leaving a nine-year-old at a busy park close to the parent's location during daylight hours "abandonment." Taking her daughter away was also a slap in the face to Debra as it sends a message that as a working mom, all her efforts are just not good enough.

The fundraiser is intended to help Debra pay her legal fees and to help her get back on her feet after the loss of work hours that has surely resulted. All the money raised will go to Debra. I will be in touch with her via her lawyer very soon to figure out how to transfer the funds. Please give what you can to help!

As for me? I'm Clair. I'm a total stranger from the Boston area (Southern New Hampshire) with little in common with Debra. I don't have any kids and I've never had to rely on a low wage job to make ends meet. I have a full-time job with benefits. I work hard, but I've never struggled,and I know how incredibly lucky and privileged I am for that. And I don't believe it makes me a better or more worthy person than anyone else, whether they're unemployed or working for minimum wage, trying to feed a family. I was moved by Debra's story and by the response from both very liberal and conservative people that arresting Debra and taking her daughter away was not the right solution.

Thank you so much for reading. I will try to keep up with any questions you ask via the button below!

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on September 25, 2014

Posted on September 25, 2014

Hi Everyone - Sorry for the long delay between updates. I knew that my work travel schedule would get nuts in September, which is why it was important to close the fundraiser back in August! 

All the money that we raised is now officially in Debra's trust account (or has been released directly to her already through her attorney). After all was said and done (after Paypal fees, a couple of refunds were made, and interest was accrued while the money was in the bank) the total that went into the trust was $43,456.67 (YAY!) I sent the first check for $28k back in July, and then after getting an expert opinion on any potential tax liability, I sent the final check for $15,456.67 earlier this month. The documentation is in the fund gallery, if anyone cares to see it.

In terms of Debra's legal situation, I don't have very much to share and am not able to get in-depth updates regularly. My understanding is that Debra's next court date, when there is likely to actually be some action on the case, is November 21. 

I still chat to Debra regularly, and she and Regina are doing well. Gina started back to school and is in the 4th grade this year. I posted a couple of photos of her looking cute as a button getting ready for school in the gallery. She and her mom enjoy cooking together and looking after their pets (including a very cute puppy named Roscoe). Life is still more challenging for them than it used to be. South Carolina Dept. of Social Services conducts bi-weekly welfare visits which, as you might imagine, gets pretty tiresome. Gina doesn't feel nearly as independent as she used to before the incident at the park. When she's not in school or childcare, she's scared to be out playing with her friends or at a neighbor's house, which is a real shame. She is getting some counseling to help overcome the anxiety that being taken from her mom caused. Debra is still working at McDonalds (as front-of-house department head) and is working more night shifts again. Debra and Gina were able to take a trip to the coast before school started and did some kayaking, crabbing, and fishing. 

Thanks again to you all so, so much for helping support this family during a time of need. They are truly grateful (as am I!). I will keep posting updates as I get them regarding the charges and court case.

My best,

Posted on August 18, 2014

Posted on August 18, 2014

Hello all,

Having been open for 33 days, this fundraiser to benefit Debra Harrell closed this evening. After what has really been a pretty terrible week in the national news, it helps raise my spirits to close this fundraiser as a massive success. Debra has 1,582 friends out there who collectively donated over $45,000. That's truly incredible, and I know she is so very greatful.

I will post an update in the coming weeks showing the final balance and payment from the fund to Debra's trust. I will also keep posing key updates on Debra's legal case.

Thanks again, and please keep in touch, either through updates from this site or via the Facebook page:

My best,

Posted on August 13, 2014

Posted on August 13, 2014

Hello all - I decided to extend the fundraiser by two more days because of some recent news and media exposure surrounding Debra's case.

As I posted on the Support Debra Harrell Facebook WJBF, the local ABC affiliate in Augusta, ran a story on Monday about Debra's police interrogation video, which they obtained from the county DA's office via a Freedom of Information Act request. When they ran the story, they also posted the full, un-redacted video of the interrogation on their website, cross posted to Facebook. This video contained Debra's home address and social security number. The video has since been edited, but the damage has already been done. It was a massive violation of her privacy, both by the DA's office for not redacting the private info in the video and by WJBF for posting it unedited. The story about this violation of Debra's rights is now being picked up in the media. ran a piece today and others are likely to follow.

People are clearly still interested in donating and helping Debra create a better future for herself and her little girl, so it made sense to extend just a little. Then I'm going on vacation for real.


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