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Backpacks to carry relief to storm victims

September 05, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - In Rachel Bibbee's living room, the news of Hurricane Katrina elicited a response familiar to many who live hundreds of miles from the storm's devastation: "How can I help?"

For the 16-year-old Smithsburg High School senior, tears and words weren't enough. Now, she and her mother, Lynn Bibbee, are looking for board games, books and toys to fill about 200 backpacks bound for the Gulf Coast.

"Just seeing those people, seeing their emotional responses, just seeing their faces, knowing they've lost everything, it's just so hard," said Rachel, as her eyes filled with tears.

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Moler Avenue Church of the Brethren in Martinsburg, W.Va., and Sam's Club on Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown, where Lynn Bibbee works, will collect toiletries, including hand towels, washcloths and personal hygiene products such as soap and toothpaste, and new toys to send to storm survivors, Bibbee said.

Rachel and her mother said they set out Sunday for Wal-Mart planning to buy pencil boxes and supplies for children left with nothing after Monday's storm. Their plans changed when they discovered children's backpacks on sale for $1 each.

"I was like, 'This is way better,'" Rachel said.

With the help of two clerks, Rachel and her mother filled five shopping carts with 200 backpacks, which they hope to send to children left homeless by the storm. The Modern Woodmen of America insurance group has pledged to purchase and fill with toys 100 additional bags, Lynn Bibbee said.

Backpacks of every color and design stacked high to the ceiling filled the seats of the Bibbee family's Dodge Caravan.

Lynn Bibbee said her family spent the past week discussing how to help hurricane survivors. Watching the images of terrified children has been especially hard, she said.

Rachel said she would like to help in the Gulf Coast herself. She said she cannot imagine ever having to leave her dog and teddy bear behind, and she said she hopes to find even more ways to help.

Rachel said as she and her mother pushed their shopping carts to the front of the store, several curious shoppers asked what they were doing.

"This one little girl was like, 'You must have a lot of kids in your family,' and I said, 'We do - 200,'" Rachel said.

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