Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Promise Kept....

With every fiber of my being, I believe that Life is a journey of perception and that even in dreadful adversity, there is a Gift:

“When Katrina took aim at the Gulf Coast, no one could imagine the magnitude of death and destruction coastal residents from Florida to Texas would endure. As Katrina developed into the killer storm she became. millions of fearful people flooded the highways hoping to reach safety many miles to the north, east and west of the threatened Gulf Coast. Traffic jams many miles long, gas shortages and no vacancies made the evacuation a nightmare.

Some residents chose to stay and ride out Katrina as they had other such hurricanes. Many people paid with their lives for their unwise choice. Those that did not evacuate and survived will most assuredly never make that mistake again.

Katrina was not just another hurricane. Katrina became the worst natural disaster in the history of our nation. Never had our nation faced the destruction of life, personal property, business and necessities to such as extent as was experienced by the wrath of Katrina. Damage to major highways caused traffic jams and detours that may last for months. The massive stonn surge created a wall of water 10 to 15 feet high over a huge area of the Coast that had never before been experienced. The Gulf of Mexico rolled inland for miles destroying everything in it’s path.

The hearts and dollars of North Americans poured out to the victims of Katrina as rescue and recovery assistance began to pour in from California to Canada to New York. They provided ice, food, water, medical aid, encouragement and the essentials of survive to the victims of Katrina, left with little more than the clothes on their backs.

To the many caring organizations, church groups, families and friends who volunteered their gifts of time, money, hard work and encouragement to the survivors, we will be eternally thankful and grateful and overwhelmed by your very generous sacrifice in our time of need.

May God bless every one of you.

A very grateful resident of Pearlington, MS.
Billy R. Johnson”

Billy approached me on my last trip and told me he had been looking for me, or my address, to share this story with the world.

Now I have.

Thanks, Billy
“Canada Jon”

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

A Quick Situation Update - Feb. 21, 2006

Thank you for all your responses about Holly’s Library and the library situation in general. I am still weighing the information and awaiting some more, so that I can get a full picture of the situation and the possible solutions. I’ll keep you all informed in the next few days.

Concerning the food situation in Pearlington:

The outstanding folks at H.A.N.D.S. of Jackson, MS have donated something of a mobile kitchen, but it can only be on loan until March 26. Greg Wolfe, Disaster Recovery Director of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Mississippi, is working on a more permanent solution. The National Guard is even threatening to provide a solution, but - like Greg - I don’t believe a kitchen is coming until I’ve had my first meal out of it. Faith, like government promises, does have its limits. In the meantime, Greg could immediately use some large stock pots and other institutional- sized cooking utensils, to get the job done.

Greg will gratefully accept any cooking utensils and cooking equipment on behalf of his group. It will be used in Pearlington until that job is done, then stored for the next area of need.

Two ladies from the First Mississippi Baptist Church in Pearlington (names currently unknown to me) are doing their best also, to feed LUNCH (only) to volunteers. They need CANNED MEATS and other appropriate lunch-type foods as soon as possible. Anything sent to the Distribution Center (the “Pearl*Mart”) and labelled: “For Greg Wolfe - First Baptist Church Food” he will ensure they get to the right women.

The remaining shower unit located at the school is scheduled to depart at the end of February. Once again, Greg Wolfe has committed to sponsoring it for two more weeks, but a more permanent solution is needed. Greg and the Baptists are trying to get at building one, but they have a lot of other things on their plate. Anything anyone can do to help them in this effort would be gratefully appreciated. If you need to contact Greg, please let me know.

The toilets located on site are remaining for now.

Three cheers for Greg Wolfe and Charlie Holmes of CBF. In the true spirit of our Coalition they are taking some real leadership on the ground in Pearlington and thank God they are there!


Monday, February 20, 2006

Holly's Library Revisited

It started as the Dream of a little girl. It was simple. Why can’t Pearlington have its library back? It was such a focal point for everyone who cared about books and learning and adventure. It didn’t seem outside the realm of what was possible and if a young girl’s Dream can’t come true, then what hope was there for the whole town?

In the end, it took very little to motivate others to help. Conrad Velasco, the Dog Soldiers, Eileen Powers from Canada and other volunteers made it happen. They made it special and painted it with a very special sign:

Holly’s Library.

As Holly and her family struggle to get their lives back in order and as volunteers work to restore their home, Holly wonders what will become of her library. In the end, it is overlooked in the corner of the school property and other kids tried to steal her Dream by complaining that Holly got something they didn’t. The books inside are all packed up, hoping someone will move the shed over in front of the Pearl*Mart, where people can see it and use it. It will need a forklift or a few good men. Holly is still willing to be it’s librarian.

I have a bigger Dream. I understand there is a donated bookmobile sitting unused in Bay St. Louis, for the lack of money to pay a driver or insurance on the vehicle. I know others are working on solutions for the award-winning library that used to be at the school in Pearlington. My Dream is that we all can work together to find a solution, to create our way out of this in the same way we’ve created our way out of other challenges.

Meanwhile, Holly struggles to keep the faith. Last week her older sister was seriously injured in a car accident on the interstate. Her mother Sue has had to move Sheree to family in Mandeville, because the FEMA trailer will not work for her. She has a broken collarbone, two cracks in her pelvis, a damaged disk in her back and a bruised lung. Her father Ben keeps holding the fort in Pearlington, caring for Holly, working at his job and praying for an end in sight. I know Ben; he cares as much for each of his neighbours as he cares for his own family. He is deeply and very personally moved by all who have come to help.

Talk to me, folks. What can we do about this library situation? Let’s use Holly’s Library as a symbol of hope and faith in a town that desperately needs to believe in miracles.

Personally, I don’t believe in miracles. I COUNT on them....


Saturday, February 18, 2006

Who's in town....and who's coming....

The following groups are planning to be in Pearlington, weaving their magic and helping to restore the faith of the townsfolk, in the next little while. It is a partial list and I would like very much to hear of any groups not yet included and if that group needs any information, connections, resources etc. that another group might be able to furnish.

C.O.D.R.A.’s mission statement is simple:

“Where Resource meets Need; helping those to help themselves.”

Jennifer Johnson and her group from Huntsville, AL is already in town, with a plan to work on six houses;
The Dog Soldiers return once again today, with a team of six under the leadership of Quentin Holden;
• folks from the Town of Carbondale, CO are still fully vested in Pearlington's recovery and Tom Dalessandri is back home making preparations for 50 students from his area to come to Pearlington the week of March 4. Included in this team will be the Police Chief and Asst. Fire Chief and various construction types; one of their dreams is to restore the cemetery and will need a bit of heavy equipment to level the area and life some of the tombs back into place; if you can offer assistance with this, please contact me and I will make the connection;
Jim and Susie Merritt are leaving Beaufort, SC on Tuesday the 21st and will arrive the next day; their group of six will be there by Friday next week and stay for a few days working on Susie Sharp’s house and the Baptist Church; Jim and I are discussing some exciting things and I will keep you posted;
John Olsakovsky, a former Red Cross shelter Director in Pearlington, is currently in town; he has brought with him 200 new children’s books, teddy bears and shoes and is researching Holly’s Library
the Union Church of Hinsdale, IL (United Church of Christ) will be returning to Pearlington the first week of March, with 25 young people and six adults under the supervision of Youth Director David Knecht and Mission Minister Dr. Thom Parrott-Sheffer; Senior Minister of this church is Rev. Verlee A. Copeland, who was instrumental - with Moe Grzelakowski - in providing many of the trailer starter kits as Loving Neighbours.

A note from Bob Britt concerning volunteer housing:

“I visited I Care Village at Morrell Center in Waveland Beach when I was there a few weeks ago. They have a permanent food tent, indoor toilets, washers and dryers, etc. Their food tent is large and the manager told me they are expanding from 120 beds to 600 beds in a few months. I know it is a ways from Pearlington but if the Charles Murphy school situation does not work out food, shower, or toilet wise this could be considered an option. A volunteer who stayed there for a week told me they were charged $120. per week to stay there. Contact information for Morrell Center is:
Manager - Rose: 615-579-1656, also Renee: 228-424-8485, also Steve: 228-313-3338"

If any of you are working with residents over the age of 50 years, I would like to pass on some valuable information that may assist them in getting all kinds of different help from the American Association of Retired People (AARP). Here are some contact names and numbers that can be investigated to see what might be offered. If someone does follow that through, please let me know the details and I will post them:

Frankie Munoz: 601-206-1844
Marian Donaldson: 617-964-1910
Amanda Jones (MS Bar Assoc.): 601-940-3202
Donna Jackson - Special Needs (FEMA): 601-695-2817
Dept. of Aging: 228-868-2326 or 1-800-948-3090

While I was in Pearlington, the Army Corps was busy picking up debris, particularly along Hwy. 90. A recent edition of the Hancock County Recovery Update urges citizens to do so and to call 228-255-1427 to have debris removed from the public Right of Way.

More to come on Holly’s Library....

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pearlington Needs List - Feb. 16, 2006

Please excuse the delay in this follow-up posting. Here in southern Ontario I am, literally and figuratively, snowed under.

The town is mostly in the rebuilding stage of it’s recovery. Many homes still need gutting, in preparation of rebuilding, and some homes are ready to start over from the shell that is left. Some insurance settlements have been made, although most people did not have flood insurance. Most of those who did, report to me that they are still awaiting final payouts. Most families did not get enough to rebuild on their own and need our help.

A note about the SBA (Small Business Administration): the SBA is offering generous loans at reasonable rates, yet some have become disaffected by the process for a number of reasons. It would seem that application and qualification for an SBA loan disqualifies the borrower automatically from other forms of assistance, whether or not they accept the SBA loan or not. Some families would much prefer to use what money they can collect to purchase some portion of, or all of, the materials required and then hope that we, as volunteers - as well as themselves and their families - can rebuild and help them avoid an additional lengthy period of further indebtedness. The SBA offers loans with up to a 30-year term. Older and elderly residents cannot see the wisdom of this in terms of what legacy they may be leaving their heirs.

In short, they need our help. If anyone has accurate and knowledgeable information on SBA, please contact me and I will post the information. In the meantime, some information may be gathered at:

SBA Fact Sheet

The Red Cross is no longer accepting applications for assistance. This and other Katrina assistance information may be had at:

Gulf Coast News


The Red Cross food service tent pulled out yesterday. H.A.N.D.S. (Helping Americans Needing Disaster Support) of Jackson, MS has supplied a field kitchen and local volunteers are being asked to come out and help with it. The Knights Of Columbus have offered to send a chef to do some training and possibly some food. The situation is critical and all we can do to help, needs now to be mobilized. Two local ladies from First Baptist Church are trying to do some feeding of volunteers, but need supplies and assistance.


• building materials of all kinds: lumber, studs, drywall, insulation
• tools, both hand and power
• the use of Bobcats, dozers, excavators, backhoes and other heavy equipment
• fill dirt and sand for lots
• sawyers (wood cutters) with chain saws
• people willing to gut and clean out houses
• qualified electricians, plumbers, carpenters, roofers etc. to lead teams

• cooks, chefs, food service workers
• bulk food for preparation, including beverages etc.
• industrial cookware and serving dishes

Any other needs, please let me know and I will post.

Next posting: who’s coming to help and who NEEDS help.

"Canada Jon" White

Sunday, February 12, 2006

On-the-Ground in Pearlington - Feb. 12, 2006

As of last week, much in Pearlington has changed and much has stayed the same. Many homes are being mucked out, some are being rebuilt, some people have not even returned to town and some homes look exactly the way they did the day after the storm. Let’s look first at the situation concerning volunteer amenities on the ground:

- the Pearl*Mart remains open, under the management of local resident Larry Randall and his colleagues. Laurie Spaschak and Tony Ewers are also there as volunteers, lending their invaluable assistance.
- the Red Cross food service tent is slated to depart this Wednesday, Feb. 15th - this is going to put a serious crimp in things and we are actively pursuing alternatives - there have been various rumours of a solution, however I have learned to count on nothing until I am unloading the actual truck! - CBF and Charlie Holmes are working on the most promising solution;
- there is one shower unit left at Chas. Murphy school and it is slated to depart Feb. 28th
- there are portable toilets available at the school and around town
- volunteer housing is still available at the school
- postal service has been restored to Pearlington and boxes are available on a leased spot across from the old location of the Post Office - thanks to Ed Wentz and others who lent energy and helped facilitate this and a successful meeting with the Post Master in Bay St. Louis
- various groups are in town helping the townsfolk muck out their homes, strip things down to the studs and begin rebuilding; these groups include:
• the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, located in the large CBF tent in the field behind the school and in adjacent trailers; Greg Wolfe is the Director and Charlie Holmes his assistant and perhaps replacement, when Greg’s tour is complete in March;
• the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance has set up a self-contained camp - PDA Camp 6 - in the area beside the fire station; Canadian Peter Rangelov is in charge and will be on site until May 7th;
• volunteers from Disaster Corp and Burning Man have set up another self-sufficient camp on the pad formerly housing the Post Office; Richard Scott and Carmen Mauk are in charge and have some pieces of heavy equipment that Peter works with around the clock; the team has been in Biloxi for several months and have relocated now to Pearlington and elsewhere to weave their magic until the end of March;
Pickin Up The Pieces from Savannah, Ga., founded by Michael and Linda Edwards, have done a remarkable job rebuilding the home of elderly couple Pat Wilson and her husband Harry, out on Hwy. 90; the couple was able to sleep their first night in their new home last Friday; Pat is a crucial link in the rebuilding of the cemetary, proposed by the town of Carbondale, Co.
• Tom Dalessandri of Carbondale was on site, preparing for a team that will come now to continue clearing lots and rebuilding homes, one home at a time; their total contribution has been outstanding and Tom is a wise and hard-working friend of mine and of Pearlington; the Carbondale team will be back in town in early March and will be ready to rock! Sheet rock, that is;
• Gene Stutzman of the Mennonites is also in town, working with a crew mostly doing volunteer roofing;
Bob Britts of RCAP was in town doing a video of the Water Missions pump installations there and in other locales;
Frank Cloud, Jimi Smith and Sam Bailey are local volunteers who have put their own rebuilding needs aside to work on behalf of others in their community - three more dedicated and willing volunteers one could never find;
• there are many other smaller groups in town, working on gutting and rebuilding and they all should be applauded for their tireless and selfless efforts.

The Coalition of Disaster Relief Agencies (C.O.D.R.A.) held its first meeting in Pearlington on Saturday, February 4th in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship tent in the field behind the school. CODRA has brought together the major players in Pearlington so that we all might cooperate and support each other as we work to rebuild the town. This prevents duplication of valuable resources and labour, shares information and even lends labour and equipment resources back and forth as each group is able. Many groups have arrived and either had too much to do and needed help another group could provide, or vice versa. Each group, of course, maintains their autonomy and it is my job to keep everyone informed of the evolving situation and to use the blog and a phone tree to disseminate the information so that groups can use it to form their plans for Pearlington. The meeting was inspiring and a great success and the next meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 13th in the CBF tent at 7:00 p.m.

I would like to welcome to C.O.D.R.A. the following new members, hard at work in Pearlington:
• the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance - Pearlington Camp 6
• Jim and Susie Merritt of Tidal Creek Fellowship, Beaufort, SC
• Pickin Up The Pieces of Savannah, GA
• Burning Man/Disaster Corp in Pearlington
• Jennifer Johnson and Family

Later: current needs, who’s coming to town, Holly’s Library, the food crisis, etc.

Kind regards,
“Canada Jon” White