Home away from home

Published 2:10 pm Monday, September 5, 2005

By By Janet Little Cooper
When a group of 14 Slidell, Louisiana residents evacuated to Niceville, Florida seeking shelter from Hurricane Katrina's fury, they had never heard of Atmore.
Since arriving here Tuesday night the group is proud to call it home, at least for now. Cory and Crystal Savell were trying to make their way back to Louisiana when they stumbled upon Atmore.
"I really can't tell you how we got here," Crystal Savell said. "We took a lot of back roads. We just wanted to get home."
Unfortunately, the family was met with an immediate problem of hotel accommodations. After many fruitless efforts, the Savell's ended up in Buster's Restaurant located next door to one of Atmore's motels.
"Our first impression of Atmore was not good," Savell added. "I said that I would never come back here."
A waitress at Buster's made one phone call that put things into rapid motion. Before the family knew it, Atmore responded in a way the Savell's never dreamed possible. " We have never been on the receiving end before. We have always worked and helped others, not the other way around," replied Savell. "The two waitresses were phenomenal. We had just had a bad experience and were frustrated. We haven't found one person since then that hasn't been anything but helpful."
The evacuees feel as if they have the word 'Louisiana' stamped across their foreheads.
"Every single person we have come in contact with from the gas stations to the grocery stores have been so gracious", Savell said.
After a few calls and the help of Atmore's Red Cross, the 14 evacuees were taken to the homes of Glenn Kelley and Arthur and Susan Odom of Atmore.
"Glenn's home was empty, but still had electricity," commented DeeDra Kelley said. "We put a few mattresses in there and it already had a TV."
Once the group got rested, they heard about Joey and DeeDra Kelley's donation drive for hurricane victims. The Louisiana residents soon joined the forces located at Joey's Furniture, sorting, packing and loading supplies for the victims.
"They don't ask for anything and have worked so hard helping us with the donations", said Kelley, "One of their daughters 10th birthday was Monday. We put a party together for her."
Three of the men were able to get to Slidell and access their homes. The Savell's do have a home waiting for them they just don't know when they can return. Their home received minimal damage and a lot of debris. The men were met by county officials telling them to assess their property and get out. Residents have been advised not to return until further notice. The Savell's are staying in Atmore until they can go home. " We have no power or running water," said Savell.
The parish where the family lives, would like to have schools back in session by October, but are realistic at the same time.
"Our children don't want to, but we are going to enroll them in the Atmore schools." Savell commented.
The family has been advised to do so, to keep the children from falling so far behind and to help give them some sort of normalcy.
"At this point I wouldn't mind moving here, but my husband said he would send me a postcard," Savell said. "Louisiana is our home."
Joey's Furniture started a drive for donations that has reached overwhelming heights. A tractor-trailer has been loaded with donated items from water to clothing. Joey's will continue accepting donations to be delivered every Saturday until they are no longer needed. Joey Kelley is working directly with Emergency Management Facilities and Red Cross.
"They are directing us to areas we can reach. We will go until they don't need us and we will carry people to help us distribute the items," he said.
Donations can be dropped off at Joey's Furniture or Kelley's Ambulance Service.

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