Thursday, September 8, 2005

Assisting hurricane evacuees
• Volunteers focus on relief efforts

Staff Writer

Marshall County communities are getting ready to host south Mississippi and New Orleans evacuees from Hurricane Katrina which struck the Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana Gulf Coast area August 29. Katrina has been described as the worst natural disaster on record to strike U.S. homeland.

Faith-based communities banded together with local industries, businesses and governments to prepare to help house and feed any evacuees already in the area or any who come later.

Local inns began to fill up and were to capacity Monday, Aug. 29, when Katrina pushed through south Mississippi and New Orleans. Residents cannot go back into devastated coastal areas until federal and state agencies and local governments give the OK.

The need to offer shelter and relief came to awareness of the Holly Springs community on Tuesday, Aug. 30. A group gathered at the Holly Springs Multi-Purpose Building to organize Wednesday evening, Aug. 31, after local churches came out of prayer meetings.

County Department of Human Services Director Elizabeth Kriss spearheaded the first Red Cross organizational meeting.

Kriss said the disaster is so widespread local agencies in this area don’t know what to expect.

“We cannot predict the volume or the need at this time,” she said. “This could end up being a three-month situation. Our priority now is to help people on the road to get to their friends and family.”

Kriss said the Multi-Purpose Building in Holly Springs located on North Memphis Street is set up as a Red Cross Shelter and collection center. The center can be contacted by phone by calling 252-4807 or the Department of Human Services at 252-4511.

Cash or check donations are being taken at Catholic Community Services by calling 1-662-252-1336 or by coming in the office at 690 Highway 4 East in Holly Springs, Kriss said.

The donations can be used immediately to purchase any needs including gas vouchers, airplane or bus tickets to help people get on their way, she said.

By Thursday, city and county department employees, community volunteers and Lepher Jenkins and inmate help with the local prisonwere unloading quilts, toiletries, towels, kitchen supplies and mattresses (provided by Trinity Missions) at the Smith building.

Jenny Sanderson, a Church of Christ volunteer, kept inventory and helped organize the storeroom.

Two local churches had paid for meals for evacuees before the weekend. Annie’s Restaurant across from the shelter on North Memphis Street assisted with meals.

“We will provide breakfast and lunch,” said Annie Moffitt, another volunteer and owner of Annie’s.

“They will pick up food vouchers at the Holly Springs Multi-Purpose Building. Breakfast will be served at the building and lunch at Annie’s. Friday night’s supper was to be served by Marshall Academy.”

Police Chief Patricia Selman, Barbara Lanphere and Detective Elijah Wilson were in charge of security on behalf of Holly Mayor Andre’ DeBerry and the Board of Aldermen.

“We are going to do whatever we have to do to keep it safe here,” Selman said.

“Who is to say a disaster wouldn’t hit here?” she continued. “This is an experience on learning how to coordinate and get things together. We’re here under the Mayor’s Task Force, is guess you could call it.”

Sanderson, a New Orleans area resident of 30 years prior to moving to Holly Springs, expressed similar sentiment.

“I am originally from the west bank of the river in New Orleans,” she said. “Some of them have lost their jobs and their homes and they have children. I have people in Gonzales affected. We don’t know what they’re going through right now. I can’t get home to do anything so this is my connection.”

Speaking to the issue of those who decided to stay on the coast and ride out the storm and subsequent flooding, Sanderson said New Orleans people are like everyone else, they have their roots and they don’t want to leave their ground.

“Not one of us knows what we would do in that situation,” she added. “This is a crisis that has hit every single person. This is the best thing I could do to help.”

Sanderson said the connections people have with others go far and wide and are remarkable. People whose homes were not damaged are being affected far away.

Her daughter in Henderson, Tenn., for example, will be helping a step daughter of one of Sanderson’s sisters in Vivian, Louisiana.

“I don’t care whether you are rich or poor, right now everyone is in the same boat,” she said.

Byhalia opened Red Cross Shelter
The Town of Byhalia began organizing Tuesday of last week and by Thursday was busy with loads of volunteers cleaning out the Old Byhalia gymnasium and bringing in supplies for evacuees, according to Mayor Scooter Dempsey.

The structure adjacent to city hall on the old Byhalia High School campus on Highway 309 was also certified as a Red Cross center and shelter and served as a collection point for donated goods as well as a shelter for 100 people, Dempsey said.

Volunteers planned to prepare three meals a day, according to Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce.

A list of items they want donated will be available soon. For now the center will need bedding - twin sheets, pillow cases, towels, washcloths, and hand towels.

Paper products needed are plates, napkins, plastic forks, spoons, cups, paper towels, and toilet tissue.

Personal hygiene items such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, brushes, shaving cream, razors, deodorant, feminine products, shampoo and conditioner are needed.

Housing items - tables, chairs, fans, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee makers, washing machines, dryers and televisions are needed.

Baby items - crib sheets, blankets, diapers, baby wipes, baby food, baby bottles and formula are being accepted.

Entertainment items like Bibles, board games, checkers, cards, pens, paper, stationary, coloring books, puzzles, crayons and magazines are needed.

Donated items can be taken to Byhalia Town Hall, located at 161 Highway 309 South or to the Multi-Purpose Building in Holly Springs.

For more information, including how serve as a volunteer, call Byhalia Town Hall at 662-838-2153. To volunteer to help with food preparation or to add a church to the volunteer effort, contact Bobby Smoot, Meadowbrook Baptist Church at 662-838-6279 or Byhalia United Methodist Church at 662-895-3692.

Potts Camp Baptist Church
Organizational meetings to see what role in the relief effort First Baptist Church Potts Camp would play got underway Thursday, Sept. 1.

Pastor Jim Buchanan said First Baptist has six bedrooms in the old Greer Home beside the church and will be able to open up the educational space in the church if needed.

“We have cleaned up the Greer House and have beds coming in,” he said. “We have plenty of bathrooms in the educational building but are short of tubs and showers.”

Sacred Heart Southern Missions
Catholic Social Services in Holly Springs decided to focus its efforts on collecting bottled water and baby supplies for its Jackson and Biloxi Dioceses, according to Bro. Lyle Hennen.

Hennen could not be contacted Tuesday before deadline to determine if those or other supplies are still wanted.

To contact Catholic Social Services at 690 Highway 4 East in Holly Springs to make a donation or to ask for victim relief call 662-252-1336 or send a fax to 662-252-6673.

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