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Area woman's family survives hurricane

September 02, 2005|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT

marlob@herald-mail.com

When Cheryl Smith learned that her brother and his family were heading north from their deluged home in New Orleans, she began scrambling to help them get started on a new life here in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Through her friends and associates at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park, which she manages, Smith has secured some recreational vehicles ? including one stocked with food ? that will be waiting when the seven weary refugees arrive.

Ron Stewart, who attended school in Williamsport and at Shepherd College, stayed behind in the family home during the storm, Smith said. His wife, Angela, and their three young children fled to Baton Rouge, La., with Angela's mother and sister to wait out the storm.

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On Thursday, they were in a $150-a-day motel with no water, no electricity and no air conditioning, Smith said.

"Ron stayed behind because their elderly neighbors wouldn't evacuate when they found out they couldn't take their pets with them," Smith said.

Her brother and the neighbors made it through the hurricane safely, but property damage was extensive, she said.

Smith said her brother told her the roof blew off his home and both his business and his wife's business were believed to be heavily damaged. The full extent of that damage is unknown since no one is being allowed into that area of New Orleans, Smith said.

"Many of the roads are closed, but Ron tells me he has gotten a pass because he is a business owner, so he might be able to go in and get paperwork he needs," Smith said Thursday.

The Stewart family was able to get some assets before the storm hit, Smith said. They retrieved the children's birth certificates from a lock box so they would be able to enroll them in school somewhere. The children are in kindergarten, third and fifth grade.

Smith said she has called the appropriate schools in Washington County to see about getting the children enrolled.

Once the family gets settled, they will need to find work as quickly as possible, Smith said.

Smith said both Ron and Angela are college graduates. He is in the mailing/printing business and his wife is the office manager for a construction company. Both are hard workers and are willing to do anything, she said.

"My friends have come to my side," Smith said. "When they heard, they asked what they could do to help."

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