Helping through hardship

Pa. women seek volunteers for hurricane aid

Pa. women seek volunteers for hurricane aid

September 29, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE


A Mercersburg woman and her mother are rounding up volunteers to wade through mud, smell foul air, be deprived of everyday comforts and reach out to people on the Gulf Coast whose homes and lives were wrecked by the winds and floods of Hurricane Katrina.

Angel Myers, 37, and her mother, Sandy Stevens, 58, drove 1,000 miles in mid-September to spend five days in Alabama and Mississippi, their SUV loaded with the donated basics of life - health and hygiene supplies.

Their minds couldn't take in what their eyes saw, Myers said.

"The people don't have houses anymore," she said. "They're living in muddy yards under tarps." A few lucky ones live in donated tents, while others find shelter under carports, the only part of their homes still standing, Myers said.


"They don't have cars or clean water," Stevens said. "We saw the Red Cross hand out meals. The Red Cross and church groups are keeping people alive down there, cooking meals and handing out supplies.

"They couldn't even use their own dishes because everything is contaminated," Myers said. "People were standing in line just to get a loaf of bread."

"Angel and I cried when we saw that. Imagine having to stand in line for a loaf of bread. You wouldn't believe the way people are being forced to live down there" Stevens said.

"There is no way to describe the smell. It is horrible, kind of a mixture of mud and seafood," Myers said.

They saw no sign of any sanitary facilities.

"We didn't even ask," she said.

"There were thousands and thousands of people living like that, whole neighborhoods, whole developments. Their houses were just gone," Myers said.

"We ran into one man in his 60s who walked barefoot for more than a mile to a church for supplies. He was carrying a puppy," she said.

The women said they saw no police or National Guard troops.

"The people weren't greedy and they seemed to be in reasonably good spirits," Myers said. "We'd walk up and they'd say 'good morning' and thank us for the supplies. I don't know if I would be that cheerful if I lost everything."

She described the victims as hard-working poor people who live paycheck to paycheck.

"They had no way to get out," she said.

After Katrina, Hurricane Rita hit some of the same areas and Texas. "These people can't take any more," Myers said.

"All you hear about is New Orleans on the news, but it's not just New Orleans that was hit. Whole towns and communities were leveled in the other states and those people need help, too," she said.

She took five rolls of film of the people and conditions to create a PowerPoint presentation she will show this month at four area churches to recruit volunteers. She wants to send the volunteers down in teams for a week at a time. Each team will have a leader. "The presentation will tell the story of what we saw, what you don't see on the news, the way people are being forced to live," Myers said.

She is working through the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church in Meridian, Miss. Conference personnel will find places for the volunteers to stay, she said.

Charlene Scroggy, who volunteers at the center's Disaster Response Program in Meridian, said in a phone interview Wednesday that many of the people coming in to help the victims are staying in area churches.

Myers is trying to raise money to give each driver $250 for gas for the trip to the Gulf Coast.

She and Stevens plan to return to the area later this month, she said.

Myers, who with her husband, Mike, owns Mike's Auto Sales and Service at 19 Loudon Road, said she saw the devastation wrought by Katrina on television.

"It hung on my heart. I felt I had to do something to make a difference," she said.

Want to help?

Angel Myers will host slide presentations at four area churches to help recruit volunteers to go to the Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The presentations are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday at First United Methodist Church, 11 N. Fayette St., Mercersburg, Pa.

  • Oct. 12 at Washington Square United Methodist Church, 538 Washington Ave., Hagerstown.

  • Oct. 16 at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 750 Norland Ave., Chambersburg, Pa.

  • Oct. 17 at First United Methodist Church, 45 N. Washington St., Greencastle, Pa.

All will be held at 7 p.m.

For more information, call Myers at 717-328-2848.

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