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God Moved People and Business

a remarkable first-hand report from the scene

 

On Friday last week, we got a message forwarded from Ann Stafford on the status of Wanda Dewberry in Gulfport, Ms.  After hearing her need, we decided that we had to help in some way.  I wanted to fill her car full of dog food and run down there, but Andy was not comfortable letting me go by myself.   The wonderful company Andy works for, GA Communications, immediately made some options available to us and our small relief run quickly bloomed to a point larger than ourselves. They provided a truck with a 24' box, donated by his employer, with the fuel to make the round-trip. On top of that, he was assured that when he left, his company would make the truck FULL before departure.

 

It was Friday afternoon and we decided the earliest he could make a run down and be of any use was Wednesday, so we made a calls to a few Friends and clients and we quickly had funding. My calls for help went out to friends and coworkers for supplies and materials for the trip.

 

We spent a good part of the weekend on the phone with various store managers of warehouse clubs, pet stores and grocery stores trying to garner the best pricing and stock of what needs we wanted to fill. With all we could get done done, we turned it over to God.  Monday, we hit the ground running and were overwhelmed with the almost immediate response that continued throughout the day on Tuesday.   After work we set out with our collected donations to PetsMart, Costco, and Walmart to finish filling the truck.

 

Shopping for an event like this is unlike any other. It isn't everyday that a store manager walks along with you finding stock and the best deal they can for you. PetsMart came through with a great discount and employees to help load and get us on our way quickly.  Costco was a similar experience. We ended up with 7 flats of merchandise to fill much of the remaining human needs. We set out for Walmart to complete our list. All along the way employees and customers alike went out of their way to make things easier. In the end we ended up with approximately 8,000 to 10,000 lbs. of animal products and the same amount of human products and a truck that was full from stem to stern.

 

The next morning Andy and coworker Greg Latham set out on a 23 hour day and an almost 900 mile voyage. The trip down was uneventful and deceiving.  We saw some wind damage, but the presence of the trees that were left standing and green did not reveal the true extent of the damage. The green we were seeing was from the remaining pine trees. All the deciduous trees were stripped bare.  Also, we were looking at things from the interstate which is where relief flows from.  Areas around the interstate are some of the first ones to get response and clean up. What really amazed us was the distance from the shore that the storm surge flowed. I-10 runs parallel to the shore in the Biloxi-Gulfport area ranging 4 to 10 miles from the coast. We passed by storm surge debris at the seven and eight mile mark from the coast.

 

What was seen from the interstate was a stark difference to what we saw just half a mile away.  9 days after the storm, tree crews were still diligently working to open up the roads for traffic. We got to our drop point of New Hope Baptist Church. Upon arrival we had volunteers from the Humane Society and approximately 60 cars of people waiting for animal feed. We quickly went through the food and supplies for the dogs, cats, and horses. With the exception of the person needing parakeet food and 3 requests for chicken scratch all other needs were met. God answers prayers!

 

The minutes, hours and days following natural disasters are very fluid and dynamic as it pertains to survival and the needs of the people and animals in the effected areas. From Friday to Tuesday before shopping I was in frequent contact with Wanda to get updates on arising needs. I had pictured in my mind that people would be lined up for anything but was surprised by how patient, appreciative, and truly thankful the first drop point was for the animal supplies. It was different than what I had expected.

 

Our friend Wanda had organized our animal drop as well as the point of contact with the church for the human needs. For everyone who knows Wanda, she is safe, resilient, amazing, unselfish, compassionate,  and so much more... keeping very little for herself and giving from the grace of her heart.

 

We moved our truck over to the only part of the church that still had a roof over it and moved our load into their food distribution point. The church suffered extensive damage and had 4 power lines down in its parking lot. During our unloading we had families arriving and having their needs met. Pastor Broughton and all the people I spoke to could only talk about how fortunate they were for being safe and just having damage compared to many other people, businesses and churches.

 

Human conditions seem to be improving on a daily basis with more stores and services coming online each day. FEMA is currently doing a good job distributing water and ice. The Salvation Army is now serving hot meals to people who hadn't had one in 9 days. The Red Cross is there distributing food to food distribution points.  The system is working and people's needs are starting to be met. Power is starting to come on. The scope of the damage is unimaginable, best described as this... If you have ever seen the aftermath of a single tornado - the way it hops, skips and jumps, sparing one home and destroying 5 next to it... take that image and stretch it over 150 mile wide path.  I feel so honored to have been given this opportunity to be able to serve this community and put aid in people’s hands during this time of need.  GA Communications wants to continue the relief runs as long as the church and community need. The area's needs will change and evolve as the power is restored and the retail supply chain is restarted. I will be working as the liaison to schedule trips and making sure needs are met. In the next few days I will have a tentative schedule together for trips. I will be calling on you for additional help in the coming weeks. Thank you to everyone that has helped, donated, prayed, packed, loaded, stacked, and kept the people of the region in their thoughts.

 

Many thanks to all of you who jumped on the phone with friends and clients to raise funds as well as products.  Thanks to Davis Mfg. for their donation of cleaning supplies and a van load of food and human essentials, C.J.'s  Grooming Tools, Superior Photocopy, and everyone else who donated money.  Thanks to the wonderful group of local groomers, both mobile and shop based who donated pet food as well as money, and to Laurie Taylor for helping pack the truck.  You are all a God send!!!  None of this would have happened without you!

 

Psalm 36:6  "O Lord, you care for people and animals alike."

By Tracy and Andy Duncan

Received from oakwood1@alltel.net and Vickie Haywood.