Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #6, #7 – Back to Business

I hope you got here from Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #4, #5: Hunkered Down in Mississippi so you have some context. If not, I suggest you go back to the beginning (Lamar-Dixon Chronicles: Introduction). Each episode links to the next for continuity.

9/24/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #6

Just another lazy day in the Deep South, wearin’ white gloves and sippin’ mint juleps . . . NOT!   No RC Cola and MoonPies either, but that doesn’t mean that the last 24 hours hasn’t met with a few Southern clichés.  Today found our intrepid volunteers faced first with a tornado watch, escalating quickly to a tornado warning as the eastern edge of Rita passed by. Toto, we may not be in Kansas, but the weather is just as sucky down there in Mississippi.  I’m not sure Sarah appreciated my wry remark about the magnetic attraction between tornadoes and trailer parks – in fact, I’m pretty sure I heard the F-bomb fly through the funky cell phone connection.

After breakfast at The Waffle House (how’s that for cliché?), Wendy and Sandy went looking for work to do. They caught wind of a temporary shelter at the Jackson Fairgrounds, and quickly went back to collect Sarah and their supplies and go back to work. Once at the Fairgrounds, surrounded by reassuring brick buildings to use as tornado shelters, they found there were only about 50 animals and the staff on site had everything under control. So back to the RV to anxiously watch the news and wait for the opportunity to return to Gonzales.

The news from Gonzales is good – from Judie Mancuso: “I just spoke with my friend Jane’s (she’s leading the rescues at Gonzales) husband, Mark Garrison.  He said that Jane has reported all is well in Gonzales, as a matter of fact they have a team of people out doing rescues today. So, I left Wendy a message that it’s OK to return, they can use all the help they can get. Jane told Mark it hit around 2:30am, a bad storm with 65mph winds. But, the animals and people left (about 30 folks) are all OK and everything is back up and running.”

I forwarded this message to Sarah, in case they can’t get voicemail. Hopefully, with the continued northern travel of Rita, they’ll be able to head back sometime tomorrow to get back to the work they went there to do.

In the meantime, Sarah said they all laughed when they got my message about using a non-profit to “launder” the collected money. It seems that the three of them had had a similar idea over dinner, and actually discussed the merits of starting a non-profit to do exactly what we’ve been doing here – funding volunteers who want to go to disaster sites and help out.  There are lots of organizations set up to fund the actual rescues and shelters, but none who are willing to pay expenses for anybody other than their established staff and volunteers. So we’ll see how that goes – stay tuned.

Volunteer update: We have a confirmed crew of two leaving on October 9, driving, so no air miles will be needed. But we may be able to help with gas money, and of course, they would be MOST grateful if the RV was still there. That means we need to keep that RV occupied and funded. Anybody up for the trip?

9/25/05: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #7

Our intrepid travelers are back at Lamar-Dixon.  They left Jackson early this morning and made it back safely, but not without encountering some pretty heavy rain and some white-knuckle wind conditions. They went back to work immediately upon returning to the shelter.

Here’s an update from Wendy’s husband: “I talked with Wendy this afternoon she says that everything is OK but a lot of dogs were not there when they got back to Dixon today, hopefully they just moved them around. But more could be on their way after Rita’s damage. Wendy and Sandy are going to stay an extra day and return Wednesday instead of Tuesday as previously planned. They had a tough time in Mississippi because of all the tornado threats, I can imagine that sleeping wasn’t easy or comfortable. They are doing a great thing over there and I for one am very thankful and supportive of the job they have taken to heart. The stories await their safe return. God Bless them and all who read this. Thanks for your support and prayers, Mike V.”

Volunteer update: Jill Moran, an animal control officer, is leaving Wednesday for Lamar-Dixon. Her airfare is being covered by HSUS, who apparently is helping “qualified” people (ACOs and Vet Techs) get there to volunteer. She is hoping to use the RV, and I don’t see why not. Our current plan is to keep it in place at least through the 2nd week of October. Our own Lorrayne Bailey is getting her shots as we speak, and is planning to leave on Oct 2 for a week or so.  She’ll overlap with Jill, but I’m hoping for another volunteer to join her during that week. And we have two more volunteers leaving from SoCal on Oct 9.

Financial update: Between the HSUS (for Jill) and the people who have offered mileage awards, I’m certain we’ll be able to cover airfare for anybody who wants to go. Once the volunteers get there, the expenses are minimal – the volunteers are well fed, and there are even locals doing laundry for the volunteers. Our biggest expenses are the RV rental, car rentals, and gas for those who drive. The RV may feel like an extravagance, but I can assure you it’s not. Even though FEMA finally put up an air-conditioned tent for the volunteers, the tent got taken down for Rita and there is no confirmation yet as to when or if they will put it back up. Volunteers are sleeping in their cars and in camping tents – not conditions we want to encourage for our volunteers.  Also, without the RV, our girls would have been in a world of hurt when they had to evacuate – there are no hotel/motel rooms available anywhere from Houston to Florida. And without a car available, they are also too exposed if they have to get out in a hurry.

Many of the volunteers just got dropped off on the site, and it was a real hassle when they had to evacuate – the organizers had to arrange for buses to get them out of there. Others who had no place to stay were being stacked up 10-deep in hotel rooms. One of the first rules I learned as an EMT a jillion years ago was “don’t become a victim”. In this case, one could say “there’s no point in being a rescuer if you end up having to be rescued yourself.” Our volunteers have been completely self-contained and able to care for themselves and stay safe when it became necessary. In other words, they haven’t been able to participate in the solution as much as they had hoped or planned, but at least they didn’t become part of the problem.

Next up: Lamar-Dixon Chronicles #8, #9: Our Volunteer Effort Expands

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