Tomorrow, October 10, I will be traveling to Louisiana to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina in a very direct way. I am currently the President of The Parents' Club of Palo Alto & Menlo Park, and in the past few weeks, our club has collected about 800 backpacks for infants, children, and adults that we will be distributing to the St. Tammany Parish Head Start Program, in Lacombe, Louisiana. Along with the backpacks, we have a truckload of baby gear, clothing, household goods, and other items to deliver to that program and to a shelter at the North Shore Harbor Center in Slidell housing 300 people there. My friend and colleague Jill A. and I will be meeting the truck and helping to distribute these items to the people, and meeting with school and shelter officials to find out more about what is needed there. The sad reality is that the people of St. Tammany Parish (and I'm sure other places as well) are not getting some of the most basic supplies that they need to start the slow and painful clean up and rebuilding process. This is just one small gesture from one community to another; we know that much more is needed now and in the future.
Anne, one of our members, came up with the idea to do the backpack drive and for weeks Jill's been living in a house full of backpacks loaded with office supplies for adults, comfort items for little kids, and diaper bags for new moms. Our friends at the Katrina Relocation collected and stored all the donated goods and arranged for the truck. My back-of-the-envelope calculation of what is on that truck comes to over $200,000 worth of donations. I'm a little nervous that the truck won't arrive on time, but at this point, what ever happens, happens.
The other day, Jill received a call from Slidell Junior High School. They have students and teachers there who have no cots or mattresses and are sleeping on the floor in trailers and tents. Some have resorted to sleeping in their cars. Their homes have been destroyed and they have no place else to go. To help them, we have put up a Wish List on Amazon.com and are asking everyone we know to donate an airbed to this shelter so that these folks can have a comfortable place to sleep. If you'd like to help people affected by Hurricane Katrina in a real, direct way, please consider sending them an airbed.
With shipping, the total is about $25 per bed, and ordering is very simple. We have about 180 ordered; they need 1,000. Amazon has these on back-order, so feel free to find another source, or go for a nicer model if you can. If you have one you are not using, please think about mailing it to them. The airbeds should be shipped to:
Slidell Junior High School
Attn: Marian Arrowsmith
333 Pennsylvania Avenue
Slidell, La 70458
Our group has been raising funds for hurricane relief for about a month now. Our one-day bake sale brought in over $22,000 for the American Red Cross. We've been astonished and humbled by the generosity and kindness shown by our membership and our friends and family around the country. We hope that people will help us continue this effort by sending airbeds and letting others know about our drive.
We were introduced to St. Tammany when we joined forces with other groups from the Palo Alto schools in a program called "Bridge of Caring" that is designed to be a long-term effort to help people specifically in that parish. Our backpack drive was the kick-off, to a series of events to benefit seven "sister schools" that the Bridge of Caring is helping. The project involves a long-term effort for getting Palo Alto school children to collect school supplies, do penny drives, and write letters to kids in Louisiana.
Enoch, a dad in our club, just returned from St. Bernard Parish in New Orleans. He's a doctor and he was treating patients out of a tent in a Wal-Mart parking lot. The homes there are deserted and people are allowed in for short periods to salvage what they can. The stories he heard were harrowing and heartbreaking. He recounted his trip in his blog.
I'll do a full report of my trip when I get back. I'm sure we will be adding to the Wish List as we find out more about the needs.