Focus On....Laurie Spaschak
Laurie first appeared in Pearlington on October 10, 2006. Attached to the Red Cross and the Shelter that was formerly housed in the library at Charles B. Murphy E.S., she became Manager of that Shelter two weeks later.
Laurie did an outstanding job as Shelter Manager and was in that position when I met her towards the end of October. There is an untold story here; one that we kept to ourselves for many months, so as to not jeopardize all the good work that was going on in Pearlington. It’s time that story was told now and it speaks a lot to Laurie’s courage and strength.
Michael Moran was brought into the Shelter, after living on his property in the woods for weeks after Katrina. His son had been killed in a car accident a few months before the storm and all he wanted was some peace of mind and a small trailer to call home. He hoped he would get to see the rest of his family then.
Mike struggled with substance abuse....and with hope and faith. Day after day, he was disappointed again and again in his efforts to get a place he could call home. One night in early November, following a particularly disappointing day, Mike went to bed and never awoke. As the Red Cross descended to control the flow of information, Laurie and I sat quietly and dealt with her grief and loss, her frustration at a system that had failed so many. Eventually, Mike’s passing was called an "accidental death" by drug overdose.
Laurie has the hat you see in the photo above-right and treasures it as a memory of a man without hope in a situation without pity. Not long afterward, the Shelter was closed, many finally got their trailers and some were moved into Buccaneer Park. One of the people who received a trailer was Dr. Strickland, who died when that trailer burned to the ground in March.
After her tour with the Red Cross, Laurie went home to NY state, returning to Pearlington on December 1, 2006 as Shelter Manager of the Naval CB (Construction Battalion) base and spent two more weeks with the Red Cross in Gulfport. She closed that Shelter out and returned to Pearlington as an unpaid volunteer on December 15. Laurie’s been there ever since, asked by the community to stay and help manage the Recovery Center and the Volunteer Shelter.
Her tasks are many and she does them with her typical attention to detail. She manages the Volunteer Shelter; organizing incoming groups, taking reservations, ascertaining skill levels, matching volunteers with appropriate work orders, arranging feeding, shower schedules and sleeping arrangements. She set up again the systems I had put in place in the Pearl*Mart in November; including donation logs, receiving orders, inventories, tracking volunteer hours, restocking the Shelter, coordinating with the Hancock County Food Bank and maintaining accurate Needs Lists.
Laurie is committed to staying on in Pearlington at least until December 2006. During a recent visit by her daughter Maureen - who will be ten tomorrow (Geez! I have T-shirts that old!) - I asked Maureen what she thought of her Mom working so far from home. "I think it’s really great," she replied. "None of my friends' Moms would do all this. But, I do miss her a lot." Maureen, a going concern in her own right, started a pen pal program at her school between it and the students of the former elementary school in Pearlington. She instituted a dog-walking service and a lemonade stand on her own initiative and donated the proceeds to Pearlington.
Laurie Spaschak’s efforts are a critical element in the recovery of Pearlington. All the volunteers and the residents of the town appreciate "Miss Laurie" immensely and know that it is her dedication and willingness that helps get so much done. Thank you, Laurie, for everything.
"There are two ways to spread the Light;