Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

TOP STORY >> Evacuees receiving hope

By RICKY HARVEY
Leader managing editor

The pride in Jacksonville Mayor Tommy Swaim’s voice is evident.
He’s not only pleased with the way the community re-sponded to help the influx of Hurricane Katrina evacuees, but he’s overwhelmingly satisfied with the way the help was initiated and continues to take place.
“You always have a lot of pride when the citizens of the community do good things and this has definitely been a real good thing,” Swaim said.

“We’ve had a situation where we’ve had to step up and it’s been gratifying to see the generosity in so many different ways.

“We’ve had situations before where we’ve had to set up shelters to help people locally with ice storms, but this time we’ve had local people helping others from outside of this area. It’s just been so gratifying.”
According to Angie Mitchell, volunteer with the Jacksonville hurricane relief center, approximately 400 evacuees are staying in Jacksonville, with 20 families still staying in motels in the city.

Approximately 120 evacuees attended and 30 to 40 volunteers attended a special informational seminar Monday night at the Jacksonville Comm-unity Center where representatives from Social Security, FEMA, workforce services, HUD, Arkansas Department of Health, local banks, insurance companies and the Jacksonville Housing Authority fielded questions and signed people up for various services.
FishNet Missions, a Christian missionary organization, provided a meal for the group.
“The evacuees were able to ask questions and get certain concerns addressed,” said Anabelle Davis, Jacksonville marketing and public relations manager.

“Representatives from the different organizations and companies went around the room and met with the families.”

Monday’s meeting was just another service that the city of Jacksonville has provided to help the evacuees, Swaim said.

The third job fair in recent weeks will take place Thursday at the Jacksonville Community Cen-ter. The hurricane relief center, on South James Street coordinated by Mary Lou Gall, continues to field volunteers working daily to meet needs.

“It’s been very rewarding for me to see how generous the citizens have been, but it doesn’t surprise me,” Swaim said. “There are people out there volunteering on a daily basis when they should be at work and they should be taking care of their own family and their own needs. It’s just been an all-out community effort. Local churches have been outstanding and the chamber of commerce has played a huge role in this.”
And most of the work has been funded by donations, Swaim said.

“We didn’t go out begging for help immediately,” Swaim said. “We were able to get started immediately without any state or federal aid, and at this point, we’re not going to file for anything.
“We’ve had generous donations of money and we’re going to use that, and the city did appropriate funds that may be necessary.”

Goods and volunteers are still needed, Davis said.
“We have plenty of clothing available, but what we need are housing, housekeeping things,” Davis said. “People who get new places to stay need chairs to sit on, a bed to sleep in, pots, pans, knives, forks, small appliances, those kinds of things.

“Plus, Mary Lou is going to need a new round of volunteers in the future. The ones who have been working every day are getting tired.”

Other items that are needed include paper plates, paper cups, brooms, dust pans, mops, buckets, cleaning supplies, washers, dryers, irons and ironing boards.