Hurricane relief efforts catch fire

Published 3:35 pm Wednesday, October 5, 2005

By By Janet Little Cooper
It only takes a spark to get a fire going.
DeeDra Kelley of Atmore knows that all to well. Kelley had an idea of collecting relief items for victims of Hurricane Katrina and delivering them in one of their furniture trucks.
Two semi-trucks, five tractor trailer loads, and a donated building later, Kelley's spark has become a raging wild fire of relief for thousands along the Gulf Coast.
"When we started this on Aug. 31, 2005, we had such an overpowering amount of supplies brought to our furniture store." Kelley said, "We knew we had to find a building to put it in." Kelley's husband, Joey, addressed the Rotary Club with their dilemma. The couple received a phone call a few days later with news of a building being donated.
"Wanda Willet, the owner of the Old Taste of Heaven building on Church Street," Kelley said, "donated the use of the building to us." The Kelley's had received mounds of clothing that would soon fill the entire building. The building is open to the public as an on going yard sale with all proceeds going toward the purchase of more relief items.
Individuals, churches and civic organizations have donated items. These groups have also given money to be used for supplies.
"We had a little girl, Toni Moore, who had a car wash," Kelley said, "to raise money and she donated it to us."
One of the volunteers had an idea for a need that sometimes is overlooked in a disaster situation – a flood bucket. A five-gallon bucket loaded with necessary cleaning supplies along with a mop and broom.
"We started with a goal of 100 flood buckets." Kelley said, "The five gallon buckets were the hardest to come by until Marvin's donated 75 buckets. A newlywed woman, donated 30 more buckets that she and people from her church had written scripture and messages of love to the people."
Kelley has set a goal of collecting 200 flood buckets for the next delivery in two weeks.
A group of 12 volunteers of the Atmore Disaster Response Team, delivered 135 flood buckets and a tractor -trailer load of relief items to Pearlington and Waveland, Miss., two small towns that border the Louisiana -Mississippi line.
"We were originally going to Pearl River." Kelley said, "They were a tremendous help to Atmore after Ivan. Pearl River already had enough supplies to support their small town, so they asked that we go to Pearlington where the items were needed more."
The group unloaded part of the trucks contents at a distribution site at an elementary school in the town. The group was told that the supplies move quickly and the town didn't know when the supplies would quit coming.
"When we drove into Pearlington, we saw a sign for the town's post office." Kelley said, "But that was all that was left. The building was gone. It was a very small community and nothing was left."
The group returned to a parking lot in Waveland, Miss. they had used once before as a distribution site. Vehicles streamed in a line for assistance as the volunteers loaded each one. Kelley and two other female volunteers loaded up another vehicle and headed out into the neighborhoods to take supplies.
"We headed out to check on the family of 28 that we had met on the first trip to Waveland." Kelley said, "We found them to be safe and well. They had finally received FEMA trailers to stay in. They were all living under a tarpaulin in their front yard. They said that they received a lot of wind from Hurricane Rita, but all was going okay."
The group met with a man running another distribution site who spoke of the immediate need of ice, cleaning supplies, and personal hygiene products. The group noticed that the supplies in the area were dwindling and vowed to return.
Kelley had the spark that started the flame, but the people who donate their time and money are the ones that keep the flame going.
"The people who help me everyday with this and go the extra mile are angels to me." Kelley said, "All the volunteers, the people who give, none of this would be possible without them. I could not have done this alone. All I had was an idea and you people whom I now call my friends, Thank You. And to my husband, Joey, for putting up with me through this.
The Atmore Disaster Relief Team has not only helped with Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims, but have also helped with local fire victims and victims of the hurricanes here in Atmore find jobs, housing and clothing.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox