Rumor Shakes Up North Gulfport

An out of control rumor had dozens of people lined up outside of a local community center in hopes of getting some help.

Friday morning, people were waiting outside of the Isaiah Fredericks Center for money to help rebuild their homes. People started coming as early as 6 a.m. because they heard celebrities were handing out checks to help them rebuild their homes.

"People was calling stating that they was giving out money down here today, some NFL players, then they said Tyra Banks," said Lausunda Clark.

From Tyra Banks to Oprah Winfrey, the list of stars rumored to be here to help South Mississippians was endless.

"I was at the hairdresser and a young lady said, 'Did you hear that Oprah Winfrey and some football player are supposed to be here giving out $2,000? All you need to do is bring your FEMA number.' So I said that I was going to come up here and find out what was going on," says Monica Benjamin.

She wasn't alone. Word spread and several people waited for hours. Others say they left work hoping to get a share of the free money, but it was never scheduled to happen.

"Whoever started the rumor, it's a shame. Because people are out there looking to get their houses repaired and rebuilt, and just to send people on a wild goose chase is ludicrous," says Shaterra Paschall.

Paschall is a case manager for the Harrison County Long Term Coalition in Gulfport. She says her office also got calls about the mystery money. That's why she decided to show up to put the rumor to rest.

"I just hope that nobody does this again. To the people, I would say to call someone before you come out running behind fundings that may not be. Just call someone to see if that's so before you go and stand in line for hours at a time for nothing," Paschall said.

By 11 a.m., there were still no celebrities, but there were police officers and local leaders, like William Martin with the Harrison County Board of Supervisors, urging people to go home.

"I don't know where it started. I don't know how it started and I really don't care, cause it's not going to happen," said Martin.

The crowd cleared out of the Isaiah Fredericks Center shortly after 11 a.m. The source of the rumor remains a mystery. However, publicists for the Tyra Banks Show and the Oprah Show say there were never plans to disburse any money in South Mississippi.