Thursday, September 15, 2005

County residents help with hurricane relief


Towns, schools, individuals, churches and others in Marshall County continue to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The devastating storm struck Mississippi’s Gulf Coast region, New Orleans and parts of Alabama on August 29. The cleanup and recovery will take months and even years in some areas.

Adopting another town
The Town of Byhalia has adopted Ellisville, a municipality in Jones County, with a first load of supplies going there last week.

Rep. Tommy Woods of Byhalia was able to get through to good friend and fellow legislator, Rep. Bobby Shows, on Shows’ cell phone. That started the relief effort.

The mayor of Ellisville, Tim Waldrup, then telephoned Byhalia Mayor Scooter Dempsey.

“Mayor Waldrup was grateful to hear from us,” Dempsey said. “They had three buildings left with power and city hall was one.

“A lot of smaller towns were being overlooked. What we wanted to do was adopt them and help them.”

Waldrup put together a list of what was needed and faxed it to Byhalia Town Hall at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7.

“By 7 or 8 (p.m.), we had a trailer loaded with things they needed,” Dempsey said.

One specific need of residents was charcoal and lighter fluid to cook meat they had on hand before it ruined. Some churches were being used as sites for cooking and feeding.

Plus, they asked for canned foods and tarpaulins.

Terry Rodgers and Dave Young left Byhalia Wednesday at midnight with the load of supplies and Thursday at 6 a.m., they were waiting to unload in Ellisville.

“Everybody there was so excited and grateful,” Dempsey said. “They’d been overlooked, and now we’re their lifeline.”

He said Bobby Reed with the Mississippi Highway Patrol has given Byhalia information on what places need immediate assistance.

“We’ve been able to fill needs and get supplies there quickly,” Dempsey said. “This community has really come together.”

Also last week, an 18-wheeler, provided by Hunter Fan and J&J Express, left Byhalia and traveled to Biloxi with a load of donated clothes.

Through donations of time, supplies and gifts, the Town of Byhalia also developed a shelter for approximately 100 people. It is complete with bedding, supplies, showers, children’s playroom, shelves of reading materials, TVs, games and more.

“Corporations, small businesses, churches, civic groups, individuals – the list goes on that have contributed to make this happen,” said Sarah Sawyer, executive director of the Byhalia Area Chamber of Commerce. “People are manning the phones, sorting supplies, providing food 24/7. What is not used for the shelter will be sent to the coastal region.”

Perhaps the biggest contribution came from Carrier Corp. of Collierville, Tenn., in the form of three 12-and-a-half-ton air conditioning/heating units for the gym.

“It was an awesome donation,” Dempsey said Friday. “It’s being put in right now.

“This will be a shelter from now on. We don’t know when a tornado might hit Marshall County, or Byhalia most likely would not be hit in a terrorist attack, but Memphis could be.”

He particularly thanked plant manager Dave Doebert and Byhalia’s own Janice Wagg, who works at Carrier.

“This took place because of her (Wagg’s) legwork,” the mayor said.

More volunteers are needed for the shifts at the shelter. To date, the community effort has helped more than 120 people with shelter, finding homes, medical needs, finding family members, and food and supplies.

“Our special thanks goes to the leaders and the volunteers,” Sawyer said. “It is truly amazing what has been accomplished in a few days.”

Dempsey also thanked Marshall County Sheriff Kenny Dickerson. Trustees from the jail have assisted with loading trucks and other work.

“The sheriff has over-extended himself, and I’m impressed and thankful,” Dempsey said. “His department has been a great strength for us, day in and day out.”

Schools add students
As of Friday, schools in Holly Springs and the county had enrolled 34 students displaced due to the hurricane.

Holy Family has 10 new students, eight from the New Orleans area and two from the Biloxi area. They have family here, according to principal Ketia Francis.

“They’re fitting in very well,” Francis said. “They’re happy to be in school around peers of their age group. The transition is going well. It’s a blessing for them and for us.”

Marshall County Schools have 14 displaced students in attendance, Marshall Academy nine and Holly Springs City School District one.

“We’re providing services – whatever it takes,” said Don Randolph, superintendent of education for Marshall County Schools.

Marshall Academy Headmaster Tommy Gunn said, “Most have told us within 30 days they will be going back. All we want to do is help.”

Visit to Pascagoula
Van, Terri and Riley Clayton, along with Van’s brothers Drew and Mims and other family members, went to Pascagoula the weekend of September 2. Bobby and Jean Laney, Drew’s father- and mother-in-law, live one block off the beach in Pascagoula, and their home of 30 years was destroyed.

“Only one or two houses in the neighborhood were salvageable,” Terri said. “Lots of their friends lost everything. We brought back what they thought could be salvaged from their house, particularly sentimental things.”

The group from this area carried an enclosed trailer, a flatbed trailer and a U-Haul filled with items like diesel, gas, water, pillows, food, boxes and old newspapers given by The South Reporter.

They stopped at a community church near Moss Point on their way south and handed out some goods.

“A minister came out crying,” Van said. “They didn’t have any assistance until we got there.”

They saw where Sen. Trent Lott’s 154-year-old house once stood on the Pascagoula oceanfront. It was destroyed by the storm.

Van, Terri and Riley rescued a cat and brought it back to their Marshall County home. They named it Katrina.

Shelter services
Elizabeth Kriss, director of the Department of Human Services in Holly Springs, released figures for shelter services rendered to evacuees following Hurricane Katrina’s destruction of Gulf Coast communities.

Thirty-nine families (83 individuals) were served September 1 through September 6 at the American Red Cross centers in Byhalia and Holly Springs, Kriss said.

The effort to reach out to the unfortunate drew 106 volunteers, and 96 donations were received. Fifty-eight donations were pledged to come later, she said.

Doxey, others help
Sen. Ralph Doxey, his son Ralph Jr. and Sen. Doug Davis of DeSoto County traveled to the Mississippi Gulf Coast the Friday following Hurricane Katrina’s hit.

“We wanted to go,” Doxey said. “We knew our help was needed.”

Friday and part of Saturday, they helped the local folks, he said, with chain saws, gas and non-perishable foods.

Then they went to the Stennis Space Center, where FEMA placed the group with the U.S. Forestry Department to help with ground support in Waveland, located right on the Louisiana border.

“I’d never seen anything like it (in Waveland),” Doxey said. “It was total destruction. It was unbelievable.”

Volunteers worked 16 hours on and eight hours off to help set up a city to house 5,000. It included huge tents to sleep in, a cafeteria, portable showers and portable toilets.

They worked there five days – Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Doxey said he expects Gov. Haley Barbour to call a special session in the last week of September to deal with a hurricane-related agenda.

Hurricane Hotline
North Mississippi Rural Legal Services is offering free legal assistance to Hurricane Katrina victims. The hurricane hotline is 1-888-808-8049.

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