Thursday, December 16, 2010
Waveland group says thanks to Clydesdale volunteers
By SUE WATSON
They were all dressed up in their white “Coast Crew Connection Cares” chef’s aprons and their spotless white shirts sprinkled with Christmas colors. They came to serve.
All but one of the 15 cooks lost everything they owned in the storm surge associated with Hurricane Katrina, which wiped out the Mississippi and Louisiana coastal areas. Five years later these lucky people came to Holly Springs to say “thank you” to the Clydesdale Christmas Store volunteers who carried everything raised in 2005 to help homeless families in Waveland.
The Waveland 15, most of them school teachers, spread the tablecloth for this year’s Clydesdale Christmas Store auction, which drew about 250 invited guests.
The Waveland residents said they wanted to do all the food just as the Clydesdale Christmas Store volunteers had served them their Christmas dinner and brought presents as well as money in 2005.
Dave and Joy Richardson came up with the idea to cook Christmas dinner for Clydesdale as a way to say thanks.
Many life-long friendships were forged in Waveland following the storm – both friendships within the community of survivors, and those with church groups and individuals like the Clydesdale Store volunteers who have never forgotten the support that was provided to Mississippians that year.
Six of the 15 agreed to tell what it was like then and what it is like five years post Katrina.
“We are doing a lot better after five years,” said Dave Richardson. “The first year was really tough. This bunch (Clydesdale Store) helped us a lot. It was not just the monetary help. Everybody here lost everything. It was the support that was most helpful.”
Lots of people arrived to help in recovery including the Red Cross, church groups and others.
Although much of Waveland has built back, including the schools, not all the population who lost all their personal belongings returned to rebuild. Insurance was a problem because to file claims, people had to satisfy insurance adjusters with personal papers such as deeds to homes and properties. There was no grocery store and the population relied on immediate relief from outside for food, until Walmart assembled a temporary tent store where food was available.
Waveland still has no grocery store but Walmart.
“It was every man for himself at first,” Richardson said.
Street cleanup went pretty fast. Next FEMA trailers were distributed and some lived as long as three years in those. Two schools consolidated and met in trailers at first, but now students are in a new building.
Most of those who served at the VFW are either teachers or close friends with each other. The plan to visit Holly Springs began in June or July this year.
“Everybody wanted to pay back,” Richardson said.
Most came Friday; many stayed at Wall Doxey State Park. They loved meeting people in Holly Springs.
“We don’t know any strangers,” he said.
Joy Richardson talked about holding school three years in trailers after two schools consolidated. Both were wiped out by the storm.
“We live on the river and a lot of people on the river didn’t come back,” she said.
There were no houses left on the river and most were gone from the beaches. The beaches and waterways are cleaned up pretty well but the trees are just devastated snags.
“It looks like Halloween at night,” she said. “We were all just devastated and we needed support real bad. It was such a lift (Clydesdale’s visit). We bought sheet rock with the money we got.”
The insurance companies replaced the cars quickly but the flood insurance took a while. No one had paper documents and policies. It was all washed away with the houses. Five of the 15 lived on the water.
Dianne Pagano was one of about 90 percent of the Waveland population who was homeless. Her house took on about nine and a half feet of water and the ceiling collapsed on everything. Her home was about a 65 percent loss. They kept the studs, roof, bricks and slab.
“It was just awesome how people so far away gave so much,” she said. “We will never forget what you guys did for us. We didn’t know it was too late to get out until it was over with.”
Tommy Hayes, a cabinet maker, left his home on the river to stay with a friend where he thought it would be safe. The day of the storm surge, water came up into the friend’s house where 11 people were holed up in the attic. One was an elderly woman; there were children and there were adults and there were three dogs in the attic. He first swam outside and tied a boat up to the house then went back in to ride out the storm. No food or water was available the first day, but the second day food and water was delivered by emergency crews and the third day they got out of the house.
“Then I walked to my house and nothing was left,” Hayes said. “My whole neighborhood was gone. I lived through Hurricane Camille but I was young and it was Dad’s problem to rebuild. This time I was 50 and it was my problem.”
Hayes lost his home, his mother’s home, his New Orleans business and a rental house he owned.
“I was 50 years old and had nothing left,” he said. “I was in the cabinet business, so I got it all back (building cabinets for new homes), and retired early.”
Donna Marquar, a teacher, tried to leave when the water began to rise. They were crossing the railroad tracks in their vehicle to leave as the water began to rise. But a tree fell on top of the vehicle and broke the windshield out. She was with three young men, her two daughters, her husband and the dogs. She lived two doors down from Dianne Pagano. As they left for the tracks, the water rose too high and they took shelter in a vacant house. The water rose up about six feet inside the house and they took shelter in the attic. It took about three hours for the water to go down. Then they began walking toward the highway.
Her brother-in-law from Tennessee was the first to arrive with a vehicle and supplies. It was a week before anyone could get out of the area, she said.
“We are very, very thankful for the volunteers and people who came in to help,” she said. “It was church groups and volunteers. Those were the rescuers. It was a scary and very perilous time. I feel blessed to have gone through something like that. It was a very good learning experience. It gave me and my children a new outlook on life. It makes you realize what is important.”
Individuals who wish to donate to the Clydesdale Christmas Store may do so by contacting The Clydesdale Christmas Store, C/O Brenda Luther, 843 Peyton Road, Holly Springs, Mississippi 38635.
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