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2 groups' efforts to help take a 'miraculous' turn

November 30, 1999|by JANET HEIM

Garey Stewart was desperate that day he happened to notice the big trailer parked outside Boy Scout headquarters in Hagerstown's North End.

Stewart, a member of St. Ann's Catholic Church, had just hours before, hired a trucking company to haul furniture and appliances donated by the church for victims of Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi.

The problem was, Stewart didn't have any idea how he was going to pay the trucking company.

"God works in mysterious ways," he said recently, explaining that that day last May, he discovered that the trailer contained Scouting equipment area troops had donated for Katrina victims.

But, he learned, it hadn't been moved because the donations only half-filled the trailer.

It took only a matter of hours for Scott Paddack, senior district executive of Washington County's Mason-Dixon Council of Boy Scouts of America, to get approval for Stewart to load St. Ann's donations into the trailer.

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And so, work began to line up drivers and times to get the goods rolling south.

"This was a miracle," Stewart said.

Seeing the need

Camp Tiak, a Boy Scout camp near Hattiesburg, Miss., was among the areas hit when Katrina struck the Gulf region in August 2005.

Last spring, Barb Weaver, a Scouting volunteer in Washington County, wanted to help. On receiving her call, the Pine Burr Area Council in Mississippi responded gratefully.

The Mason-Dixon Council adopted the project, asking local Scout troops to donate gear to replace items lost or destroyed by the hurricane.

"It's been a year or so, but there's still a lot of need," said Paddack.

He said the response here was great. Paddack said 75 tents, several dining flies and camping stoves, and lots of camping gear, Scout books and uniforms were donated.

Scouting leaders had hoped to deliver the equipment to the Gulf sooner, but it took until November to work out the details. Meanwhile, the truck trailer sat in the council's parking lot on Crestwood Drive.

The delay ended up being a blessing.

After Katrina struck, St. Ann's member Stewart ? who happens to be assistant scoutmaster of Troop 66 in Hagerstown as well as a principal auditor with the American Red Cross ? was determined to help Gulf residents.

On his own, he made repeated trips to Mississippi. While he helped residents clean up and begin to rebuild, he made promises to do more.

After St. Ann's asked him to help it identify a church it could help, Stewart suggested the Bay St. Louis, Miss., Catholic church, Our Lady of the Gulf.

The church was spared destruction because it sits 12 feet above sea level on the highest point of the Gulf. But Katrina's floodwaters reached the stained glass windows, washed out the pews and hardwood flooring, and destroyed the rectory, Stewart said.

With donations from as far away as the Midwest, the church has since reopened ? a big morale boost for the community.

St. Ann's willingness to help in that took on more of a personal note to Stewart when his mother died last January, a week after he returned from Mississippi, and a year after her husband's death.

Many of the household items on the truck were from Stewart's parents' home, which he thinks would have pleased them.

Companies support effort

Here at home, Stewart said, Volvo Powertrain provided the two drivers and the truck to pull the trailer, and paid for gas. D.M. Bowman Trucking provided the trailer.

"There were a lot of people involved with this, a lot of people who donated time. It would have been so expensive to do without the donation of the truck, trailer and time," Stewart said.

Driven by Vic Kronstadt and Dan Baker, the truck left Hagerstown on Nov. 9. Stewart, who knew the damaged Gulf route well, rode along.

He said they drove 15 to 16 hours straight to Bay St. Louis without refueling.

Scouting executive Paddack, who stayed in Hagerstown, said he heard that "when those fridges and stoves arrived, so did the line of people hoping to get them. Where they delivered, it's still pretty much a wasteland."

Amazingly, the destinations for St. Ann's donations and for those from the Scouts were only about 65 miles apart.

After the delivery in Bay St. Louis, the truck drove to Camp Tiak.

Then, the Hagerstown crew headed home.

It's hard to explain the gratitude of the residents of Bay St. Louis and of those in the Scouting community, Stewart said.

Not long after the crew returned to Hagerstown, a letter arrived from Bay St. Louis thanking those involved for giving "Katrina survivors the hope and faith to continue," Stewart said.

"It was really nice to get the letter. I felt very gratified and that the effort was all worth it. Knowing that they could use the things we brought made me feel very happy," he said.

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