Moved People and Business
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
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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org and Vickie Haywood.