What does experience in a disaster relief zone have
to do with the 50th District North Carolina Senate race?
Lots and lots when you begin to understand that local,
state, and federal governments cannot begin to provide
the massive support required to get a disaster zone
back on its feet. Government can facilitate, but it
cannot do the work of volunteer and church organizations
who team together following what I understand was the
greatest natural disaster ever to impact the United
Thanksgiving week was different for the Bagley family
in 2005. As Elaine and I learned over the past few months
about the hundreds of volunteers working on the Katrina
relief effort, we decided we needed to do our turn.
So the Friday before Thanksgiving, we pointed our Toyota
toward Waveland, Mississippi and drove straight through.
We had arranged to team up with Hearts With Hands, Inc.
a wonderful group headquarted in Asheville whose mission
is to reach out to communities impacted by disasters.
They have recently partnered with Foundation Hope to
help address the huge needs in the area. The www.foundationhope.net
website can update visitors on our group that provided
arrived about 9PM and spent the first night in a FEMA
trailer which had not yet been assigned, and the other
four nights saw us in an RV without toilet facilities.
Luckily, the food/clothing/water distribution point
where we were assigned was in a shopping center which
did have a working toilet. In five days, I did treat
myself to a single outdoor shower
with a curtain providing the privacy.
Our nighttime arrival precluded our understanding the
unbelievable devastation that had wrecked the Gulf Coast,
but the next morning, on the way to our work site, the
scope of the tragedy became more apparent. Mile after
mile of houses, churches, schools, and businesses had
simply vanished. Occasional scattered tents in the neighborhoods
testified to the determination of some residents to
rebuild, though for many it will take years.
centers throughout the area provided food, clothes and
water to the volunteers and the residents who had returned.
Our center at the Zuppardo's Bay Plaza assembled hundreds
of food boxes which we distributed with basic necessities
to local residents. I took it upon myself to talk with
as many families as I could as they came through the
Tragic stories were repeated many times. One of the
worst came from a lady who had her mother with her as
they drove through for food supplies. The mother told
me in the short space of a few weeks, she had lost her
home to Katrina, her husband to cancer, had lost sight
in one eye, and learned that her son had cancer. Another
family who drove through with their young children in
the car told how they made it to the second floor of
their two story home only to watch in horror as the
home of their next door elderly neighbors was swept
away in the storm surge before their neighbors could
I want to go back. The work is just beginning along
the Gulf Coast and the Thanksgiving Day we enjoyed when
we returned was a reminder of the hundreds of folks
whose only shelter was a tent, sometimes housing multiple
families. Again, visit www.foundationhope.net
to see how you can join in.
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