10/03/2005

Daily Kos: My Trip To Slidell - Your Help Is Needed!

My Trip To Slidell - Your Help Is Needed!
by OtherDoug [Subscribe]
Mon Oct 3rd, 2005 at 22:38:16 CDT

This past weekend I was able to make a trip to Slidell, Louisiana to take supplies to Slidell High School and to some local residents who Barbara had worked with during her time there. The diaries that Barbara posted about her experiences there struck me deeply and I wanted to be able to do something for some of the people who have been most impacted by the hurricane and its aftermath.

I understand now, after returning from the trip, just how devastating the hurricane was and how inadequate the response. Slidell is making great strides to recover, but there are many people there who will need a great deal of help to recover. Perhaps this diary, along with the excellent work that Barbara has done, can help us figure out how to continue to help. It is still desperately needed.
..This is a topic we can't let slip away. There's still far too much suffering happening and we can help lessen it through our efforts.

I had made the decision to go to Slidell almost two weeks ago, but put the trip off one week because of Hurricane Rita. The last thing I wanted to do was travel there to offer help and end up needing help myself. With the assistance of a handful of Kossacks I was able to get travel arrangements made, plan a route and get information for contacts in Slidell. tkn10015 got information on affordable travel to the region. quoaor agreed to meet me in Birmingham and help procure supplies to take down to Slidell. Barbara got me the names, addresses and phone numbers of folks in Slidell to deliver the material to. My sincere thanks to all of you.

I flew into Atlanta on Friday, Oct. 1, picked up a rental truck and drove to Birmingham. I met quoaor at the Costco there and he gave me a sizeable amount of tools, cleaning and school supplies. I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning stocking the truck with more cleaning and school supplies. Unfortunately, I only had a large pickup truck. I wish I could have rented something bigger and had the resources to fill it. Even then it wouldn't have been enough.

I traveled to Slidell Saturday afternoon and met Mr. William Percy, the principal of Slidell High School at around 6:00 pm. I was able to give him about 30 book bags, about 300 notebooks, a case of pens, a case of pencils and miscellaneous other school supplies that quoaor and I had purchased.

Mr. Percy explained that the high school will reopen today (Monday, October 3) and he knew that he'd be having about 300 students who are currently homeless to assist. About two hundred of them are from St. Tammany Parish where Slidell is located. About 100 of them are from other parishes closer to or in New Orleans. Those kids are displaced and will be attending Slidell High School until there home parishes recover. Most of those kids' families have lost nearly everything they own. Those families have bigger concerns at the moment than getting school supplies, so the material I was able to drop off will get distributed to them. Mr. Percy said he expected to get additional school supplies shipped in this week.

The high school usually has about 1900 students, but Mr. Percy had no real idea how many students he'd have there on Monday. The school was not flooded, but did take serious damage to the roof from winds and then water damage from wind driven rain. Mr. Percy said that they have only been able to get the school reopened because of the help of active duty military and national guards who came to Slidell. They've been working nonstop to get basic repairs made so that the school can open its doors this week. Mr. Percy commented that the two groups who have responded best to this disaster have been the military, who took charge as soon as they rolled into town, and the electric utility workers, who were were trying to get the electrical grid back up before the winds had even stopped blowing. Perhaps FEMA can take some lessons from these organizations. They clearly knew how to respond.

The high school will be doing needs assessments with the students who return, trying to determine what sort of assistance families need and how best to get them that assistance. He's had offers of help from about 7 or 8 school districts around the country, but he'll be letting us know what we can do as well. One immediate thing that he wants to work on is getting new school uniforms for all the kids who've been displaced or lost there homes and possessions. Having uniforms will help the kids feel less conspicuous and help them make the transition back to normal school life. That's something that we can do to help and as soon as I hear from him I'll post more.

After dropping off the materials to the high school I made my way to Old Slidell, the neighborhood where Barbara had been working. I was able to get directions from residents there to the house of Maxine Evans, one of the women who Barbara had been working closely with. She and Rev. Evans, her husband, got me over to St. Tammany Parish Jr. High School where drops of materials for local residents are being made. We unloaded the cleaning supplies and tools and watched as they got snapped up within minutes...

The residents are really making a huge effort to recover and rebuild their neighborhood, but they just don't have the resources they need. In other neighborhoods with higher income residents commercial tarping services have covered up the wind damage to roofs and contractors have boarded up the sections of houses smashed by trees. In Old Slidell the residents don't have the resources to pay for those services. Most of the houses there that had wind damaged roofs don't have any tarping. The houses that were smashed by trees are lucky to have one tarp over them. And I suspect that some residents are living in the houses that were damaged by fallen trees even though they're now exposed to the weather.

The residents of Old Slidell need any help that folks can offer. Cleaning supplies and tools are in desperate need, as are tarps and plywood to cover storm damage. Most if not all of the residents lost their furniture, including beds and mattresses. They need cots, mattresses and bedding. If there are any folks out there who have the ability to make a trip like mine please do it! Anything you're able to bring down will get put to use and will make an immediate improvement in someone's life there. Contact me or Barbara if you're willing to make a trip. We can get you contacts in Slidell and a list of things that are needed immediately.

Daily Kos: [Please recommend!] My Trip To Slidell - Your Help Is Needed!

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