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Thank You Hillsborough, North Carolina

The Challenge
Posted July 24, 2006
One of the biggest impacts being made right now in Pass Christian, is that through the efforts of Amy and Mariah Furze (a local who had run for town alderman and the only person the city has officially appointed), MANY more people who still need help almost a year after Katrina are finally getting help.  But how did this come about?
While many groups in town were helping people, and had created tasks books, there was no centralization.  People were signing up with as many organizations as possible, taking which ever one showed first.  You can only imagine the chaos this created!  
What Mariah and Amy did was to collect all the books that were voluntarily shared (from organizations such as Americorps, Meadowbrook and Mission Discovery to name a few), and establish a centralized database with categories of needs broken down.  
(Amy Hardee with Mariah Furze)
The creation of this system is to ensure no one gets “dropped through the cracks” and that work is hopefully done more efficiently.  This entails daily scouting and revisiting, touching base with residents as well as city officials.  By centralizing information, volunteer teams will be better matched with the needs of the people and having teams show up at the same site can now be avoided!  Thus began the task Amy set out to do in the middle of June, and the “job” she had for me when I arrived.  Thankfully, about the same time as when I arrived so did a couple of wonderful gals named Flo and Colette.  Angels, we like to say, sent by God.  While Amy thought I would be instrumental with the set up of the database, it was really Colette who had the magic.  Flo became the point person in the office, taking in the information from those who came in to apply.  This is often long and very involved work!  When residents first come to sign up for help they often make statements like “I lost everything.”  The thing is that could mean their house still stands, but needs everything done to make it livable again (and they lost all the contents) to they have only a slab left.   In asking questions, Flo is a gem at getting to the heart of the matter while also hearing their stories.  It is very important to hear those stories (for their own recovery process), while also assessing their needs so that Amy could take it to the next level.  This created a perfect triangle: Colette does the intake; Flo meets the people and discusses their needs; Amy coordinates the volunteer with the needs.  All this done on a volunteer basis.    
The first thing everyone who comes to the Pass asks is “Where is the government in all this?  They are no where to be seen.”  It seems to be true.  The local government is doing what they can, but considering the local government lost every building and all records it’s like restarting everything.  Almost every employee lost their home as well.  While the state government is doing all it can, there is no centralized infra-structure or coordination in town to deal with the multiple levels of needs, or even communicate with many of the residents.
It is much like living in a frontier community again, with the rules of the Wild West in a small tight-knit town reigning.   Locals are often heard saying, “Without the VOLUNTEERS the coast would still be at a standstill.”  It is volunteers who are the engine of the rebuilding efforts.   The level of destruction is so vast throughout the entire area, and the number of needs so great there is simply no way for the professionals to meet them efficiently.  Without the help of volunteers, residents have been told it would take up to 2 years to even get a plumber, electrician or carpenter!     
But here in lies yet another challenge…a new concern.  With the exception of the month of May, volunteers have been coming in at a steady pace:  as many as 150 to 250 per week per organization!   However, within the last few weeks things have been steadily declining.  Last week (week of July 10th) the number was down to the single digits:  9.  Next week they expect about 80.   Considering that the database has a list of almost 300 entries (each entry can include more than one “job needed”) for Pass Christian, this is a real concern.  

 If there is one thing I can ask of you…please encourage those you know to volunteer a weekend, a week, or even a month.  While much has been done, much remains to be done and as is evident…can’t be done without the help of those wonderful volunteers!

I will also ask for your continued prayers for Amy, and all the people along the coast, especially as the anniversary of Katrina approaches.  

Gayane Chambless

Volunteers at the Pass do Detail Labor
as told by Gayane Chambless

     Last month Amy Hardee left Hillsborough NC for Pass Christian MS, where she has been volunteering since Sept. 2005.  She has made no less than 7 week-long trips over the course of nine months.  Now she is spending her summer months in Mississippi to continue helping people get back on their feet.  No stranger to this sort of work (she had spent her summers for the last six years in NYC doing mission work), she arrived in the Pass June 9th and immediately set to task.

Agnes and Clem Harshburgers
     One of her first stops was to check in with the Harshburgers.  While not much had happened during the month of May (hardly any volunteers came to town), things were beginning to happen again.  Eighty-nine year old Agnes and ninety –five year old Clem are doing well, but VERY anxious to have their home finished, so they can move in.  They are so close they “can almost taste it.”  The kitchen cabinets, which were built by Ms. Agnes’ nephew (and hauled in from Texas!) are in and look beautiful.  The doors are hung and the trim is up.  The only dilemma now is to get the bathroom finished (flooring and sheet rocking installed).  Amy noted the couple looked very tired and that it clearly has been a hard year on them.
Elizabeth Hart’s — Plumbing, Wiring, and Debris removal
     Shortly after Amy arrived in the Pass, my 14 year old son Spencer and I joined her.  While Amy had a “job” for me to do (more on that later), Spencer in the meantime would be volunteering, doing what “unskilled laborers” do best: work wherever needed.  His first job was to help at Elizabeth Hart’s house on 2nd Street.
     All the wiring and plumbing still needed to come out, and debris removed from around the house.  Fortunately, he was not alone.  The Union Grove United Methodist youth group from Hillsborough, NC arrived the day after we did, and together they all set about working on Elizabeth’s house.   It was backbreaking work, in the heat of a Mississippi summer, but the group was incredible!  Within just a few days, they were able to pull out all the wiring and plumbing (including fixtures), even from underneath the house (along with all the debris that had washed up under the house!)  In just one day a rented container was filled with shingles, bits of trees and shrubs, wood, concrete and even a tub.  All hauled and dumped by a bunch of teenagers!
Kitty Young’s Flooring
     While one group worked at Elizabeth’s house that week, other UGUMC kids went to work at other places.  One such place was the home of retiree Catherine (or Kitty, as she is called) Young. Kitty’s home had been so severely damaged that everyone who came to inspect it thought it needed to be razed.  The amount of water and debris had literally caused the floors of her century old home to buckle. Kitty, however, held strong.  She was determined to save the home in which she grew up.  It just took the right people to help her.  Tommy Tuck was one of those people.  After he investigated the situation, he determined that if he could get the heart of pine planking up, the next team of skilled carpenters could perhaps tackle the job of fixing the joists.   Since Tommy was a licensed contractor in the state of NC, and had experience laying wood floors, he said to Kitty, “Who better to take up hardwood floors than someone who used to lay them?”  While the kids worked, southern hospitality still reigned.  Kitty, despite living in a FEMA trailer behind her home, pulled together all the “fixin’s.”  She served lemonade, iced tea and sodas, along with cookies and other munchies.  After a couple of days, under Tommy’s instruction, the teens finished the job, having painstakingly removed each plank.  Since they did such a wonderful job, the next teams who came out to work at Kitty’s were not only able fix the joists in the living room, but the space created by the Hillsborough group allowed enough area for them to crawl under the house to address the bedrooms on either side which also had been affected, thus saving those bedrooms.  Now a man has agreed to rework the old heart of pine wood from the living room to relay them.
Larry and Mary Yarborough’s — Floor Tiles
     One of the groups was sent to Larry and Mary Yarborough’s, to lay tile in their bathroom, thus putting the final touches on their house. Originally thought to be a ½ day job, it turned into a full five day (10 hr/per day) job and very few volunteer groups may have accomplished what they did. The Yarboroughs were so THRILLED with the job the UGUMC group did that they have given tours of their “showcase” bathroom. Excellent job!
Seal Ave. Trailer Steps-Platform
     A smaller group helped a little old lady on Seal Ave. that Amy and I found while scouting one day.  She was sitting outside, trying to escape the heat of her FEMA trailer.  The FEMA trailer steps can actually be quite treacherous for the elderly, and many injuries have already been reported, so the team created a platform area with wood steps for her.  While it didn’t help with the heat, it did help with her safety.  The fact that someone came out to help made her feel so happy, that she has since put out flowers on the step area to “brighten up the place.”
Kathleen Quinn’s – Weeding and a new Roof
     Another UGUM Church group tackled the outdoors:  Kathleen Quinn needed help around the outside of her home, and under Suzy Zarzar’s tutelage a smaller group of teens tamed the overgrowth.
     Coming from a different perspective, it’s often hard for an outsider to comprehend the importance of helping wherever help is needed; whether that help is inside or outside a home.  For those facing the daily overwhelming work of rebuilding, trying to “do it all” is just NOT possible and something has to “give.”  The people are simply TIRED of being tired.  Thankfully, with people like Suzy and other volunteers willing to work outside, it gives hope to the person, who is then so grateful, and afterwards feel like “Ok . . ., I can take it from here.”  And they do!
     One thing as a volunteer I have learned over the past months, is how important it is to let go of OUR expectations and perspectives.  We have to be willing to go where the NEED is . . . and to remember it is not OUR need, but the needs of those whom we serve.
     There are also times when our desire is beyond our capability, and that too is important to recognize.  There was one family Amy had hoped to help: a single mother and young teen son whose 840sq foot home was ruined.  The house on Seal Avenue still stood, but much work needed to be done. The first few groups Amy took to see how they might help, recognized that their skill level just wasn’t up to the task.  By the time I left at the end of June, Amy had not only found a group up to the challenge, but they had already gotten the old roof off and were in the process of setting in new trusses.  Once again it was a youth group, this time from NY, led by two contractors!
Tools for Volunteer-Needs met
     That same group from New York also bestowed upon the Pass a WONDERFUL gift: TOOLS! The town has had no tools for volunteers to use and the situation was becoming overwhelming.  With the warm weather and rain, weeds were thick and as high as a young child. Amy had purchased some tools thanks to donations from Hillsborough and Orange County NC residents, such as one mower and weed eater along with some hand tools.  Thanks to the NY group and some gift cards supplied by Home Depot for the town, Amy and Alderman Rizzardi went shopping and were able to purchase more mowers and tools!  Now, Amy can keep as many as 50 volunteers working at a time!
     It is thanks to all of you.  Your interest, compassion, generosity and prayers have helped keep things moving along.  Please keep them coming!  God bless!

Trip Number Seven and still coming
Trip 7 was a totally different experience! It was just as interesting, fulfilling and fun (yes, fun -- in a gratifying way), but nonetheless different. First, this team from Chapel Hill was a smaller group and comprised mostly of senior ladies and one non-senior adult male. They flew out with Amy at the end of March, thinking that they would be most useful doing "brain work", meaning library work! While they were able to complete the alphabetizing of an entire room of fiction books, and anything else Sally asked over the course of 2 days, they also had planned to help input the data information for senior adults (particularly those unable to navigate computers) who were applying for grant money which had been set up by the Governor of Mississippi. However, plans (as often occurs) didn't go as expected when the grant funds did not become available during the week they were there. The biggest lesson of disaster relief is "LEARNING HOW TO BE FLEXIBLE!"
So these senior "troopers" hit the road of hard labor. First stop was a house in Gulfport, originally 3 blocks from the beach but now "beachfront" and after 7 months had not been "demolded" yet. It was nasty! The refrigerator was still full of what was in there on August 29th; the bathroom was thought to be beyond repair, and the floors had holes punched out in order to drain the water. The team jumped in stripping the walls, ripping ceilings down and attacking the moldy areas (including pressure washing the bathroom --a long and tedious job). Once everything was gutted and cleaned out, it cleared the way for workers to begin the repair and renovation stage. Those ladies and Chris were incredibly hard workers, and were exhausted at the end of two days of intensely disgusting work.
A decision was made to venture into New Orleans for a day, to see the situation and connect with a group recommended by Margaret Morse, a Pass alumnus. They toured Wards 6, 7, 8 and 9, the latter being the most known and publicized disaster area. While there, they also toured the French Quarter and had lunch. The good news is that much of the French Quarter seems to “be back”. Restaurants and stores are open and seem to be functioning fine, especially compared to areas such as Ward 9 or Pass Christian, which struggles with barely a sandwich shop and a gas station. It is amazing, while in the French Quarter, to realize that a mere 5 miles away in Ward 9 it's another world! After touring the areas, and talking with people, Amy decided that the situation in New Orleans was a political quagmire, and thought she could accomplish more in the Pass. Pass Christian also has more of a “home feeling” because the folks, while strangers at first, quickly become family. They truly open their homes (ok...what's left) and more importantly, their hearts!
The team returned to the Pass, mentally exhausted after the trip to NOLA (New Orleans, LA), but satisfied with the educational experience. With only one day left, it was hard to start another project, yet hard not to. Hostess Pat Ericksen, introduced Amy to her neighbor Tracy Patridge, a 2nd grade teacher at Pass Elementary. Tracy and her husband, who had just finished a major interior renovation job on their home right before Katrina hit, had weathered the storm in the 2nd floor of their garage while their furniture floated to the ceiling inside the house. Yet, as Tracy told Pat, if anyone wanted to help us I would rather they help bring back my garden. The next day Amy took Tracy to Wal-Mart for purchases of flowers, dirt and mulch, while the team set to work pulling out dead shrubs and preparing the landscaping for planting. By the time Tracy and Amy returned, the area was primed to be planted. Again, Amy heard stunned pleasure in the voice of the resident at the improvement of her home just having debris and dead shrubs removed. What's so hard to recognize and grasp, is it's not just about the inside of the house that gives one hope, but also how much physical labor is actually required to get the job done. This one day job took 5 people working at top speed....virtually impossible for a mentally and physically exhausted couple to complete. The results... the joy.... are why Amy and all these wonderful volunteers return time after time.
In April, Mars Hill Church made a return trip to the Pass, but unfortunately Amy was not able to join them (she got very, very sick). She was able, however, to help them line up five houses and work with Misty and Meadowbrook. They had another successful week. One of the best news yet was that one of the houses, which most of our teams have worked on at various stages, was near completion and ready to be lived in again! This was the Yarborough's (remember the goat yard?). During the time Mars Hill was there, the team along with the large Yarborough clan, moved in furniture and helped the elderly Yarboroughs settle in. What a great day!!! It was certainly a cause for celebration. Mars Hill volunteers also checked on Janice, the lady with cancer they had helped at Christmastime. She was doing fine health-wise, and had found workers bringing her closer to moving in as well. Part of the group worked for Sally James at the library, and others worked on a house in Oak Park (for Misty) putting in drywall, while other teams painted several houses.
Next month one group from Hillsborough and another team from Chapel Hill plan to travel to the Pass and volunteer. We look forward to hearing their reports, and how the Harshbergers (95 year old Clement and his 89 year old wife, Agnes) are fairing. As the next hurricane season approaches, we hope and pray that many will be able to move out of RVs soon and into solid shelter. As always, we thank you for your continued interest, support and prayers!
Gayane Chambless and Amy Hardee

Support effort to bring relief to small Mississippi town

To the Editor: We have all been watching the after effects of Hurricane Katrina on television and in the papers. There are many unfortunate people who fell victim to one of our nation's deadliest natural disasters.
It is my understanding that the town of Pass Christian, Miss. is a town similar in size to Hillsborough. Apparently, they have received little to no assistance in coping with the disaster that has leveled their town. One of our local citizens here in Hillsborough originates from Pass Christian and has organized an effort to get them much needed supplies.

A tractor trailer has been donated and will be parked at the Daniel Boone complex on Saturday, Sept. 24. The town of Pass Christian has many needs. A complete list of needs that ranges from everyday products to power generators will be printed in newspapers and posted around town. A trucker from Pass Christian has volunteered to carry the items back to his town.

As Mayor of the Town of Hillsborough, I would like to encourage all citizens of Hillsborough and Orange County to donate to the Katrina Relief Drive for the town of Pass Christian, Miss. I applaud the volunteer effort and concern of these citizens and hope everyone will get involved either by donating or helping sort and load the truck.

Even if you have already given to the storm victims, let's all pitch in to help the citizens of Pass Christian, Miss. - victims with our kindness and generosity. Let's all make a special effort to make this Relief Drive a big success.
Joe Phelps, Mayor, Town of Hillsborough

     Formerly of Pass (class of '81), I now live in Hillsborough NC.  I wanted to update about some things my "new" hometown of Hillsborough has done in the last month for the Pass.  So far 1 donation drive has been completed and delivered, with all the goods (77,000 lbs in an 82 foot long tractor trailer rig ! ), during the week of Sept 25 to Coast Episcopal.  Our small town (not much bigger than the Pass) also raised over $5000 to help with the P.O.D. (replenishment of needed supplies, shelving, bins, tables, coolers, etc). Lou Rizzardi has asked Amy Hardee to return to help with the establishment of a more securable POD (at the 1st United Methodist on 2nd).  She arrives today (Oct. 9, 2005) back in the Pass, and will have a crew of about 24 college kids (some with carpentry, roofing and linoleum laying experience) to help in various ways this week.  They will be camped on private property near the Menge POD.
     Right now, there is much interest in the town of Hillsborough to continue helping (we are already seeing how we can get another truck for a drive in November).  Amy and I have already met with our Chamber, and have been asked to meet with civic organizations and churches here.  One of the questions (immediate concerns) of course would be the business situation and revenue for the Pass. Any ideas, comments, etc would be welcome on how to help on that end.

Here is also an email I had sent Robin Roberts' assistant, who had received word of what we were up to:
Hi Ms. Smith,
Bonnie forwarded your email to me, as I am the "instigator" if you will.  I went to school in the Pass (class of '81), and my heart just broke Monday morning August 29th!  I was needless to say, very tearful and worried about all my dear friends (only friends left there, no family) for days.  The town I live in now is much like the Pass: warm, caring generous folks.  The next thing I knew everyone was saying what can we do...we can't let Pass Christian become a lost city.  With the help of an old classmate, Robert Travis and his wife from the Pass, who own a tractor trailer (BIG rig) we are in the process of filling this truck.  We have been working on this for 2 weeks now. The merchants' association, many churches and 6 of our 11 schools, as well as residents have been involved.  Even the mayor and chamber have been heavily involved.  
Please Click Below from Mayor Phelps to citizens of Hillsborough:


     I have had 3 churches already contact me about "hooking them up" with like denominations and size.  They want to adopt a church in Pass.  Also have contacts from others about adopting a school (from even as far away as Washington State.  They "googled" us)
     I have been talking with Lou and Wilma Rizzardi (their daughter Wendy, with whom I sailed at PCYC) lives near me in Cary, NC.  I had received their 1st list of needs over 2 weeks ago, and our flyer which went out all over town was based on that.  Since then, we have updated it 2x according to Wilma's "wish list."
     Originally we planned on delivering all the items needed in the Pass to the Pineville Elementary school, which was being used as a distribution site.  Today I found out from Wilma that the site is going to be closed for distribution and made ready for school again (YEAH!).
     In the meantime, Wilma or Lou were going to let me know where to come with the rig.  One spot mentioned was a smaller distribution site on the corner of 2nd and Menge (by the Fox's Den...right by the Yarborough's.  Ask Robin if she remembers the goat yard). )--they are low on supplies there.  If not there, then I will have to get an update on the way down.  We are pulling out of Hillsborough this Saturday evening, and expect to be in Pass Sunday night.  Ready to unload Monday.
     Some of items which have already been received include: 12 flat bladed shovels, 12 pointed shovels, 12 tooth rakes, 7 lawn rakes, brooms, mops and mop heads, buckets, trash cans, LOTS of trash bags
sponges, 16 claw hammers, 5 boxes of nails, 25 folding chairs (for workers to take a break outside hopefully under tarps), rope, assorted tools, work gloves, latex gloves, dust pan, paper masks, duct tape, pitch fork, cleaning supplies, bug spray, sunscreen, 15 gallon tub of hand sanitizers, wipes (again...like hand sanitizers or for babies...use either way), 1 CAMPER (pop up, which we plan to fit into the truck!), 2 camper potties (hey, you gotta go!), LOTS of paper towels, toilet paper, first aid supplies (band aids, neosporin, peroxide, rubbing alcohol, etc), deodorant, and other personal hygiene items, feminine products, baby products, food, water, and lots more!  Is this enough?
With the money donated we want to purchase tarps, wheel barrows, and other stuff.
We plan to be there as I mentioned on Monday to unload wherever Lou tells us to go. We will probably be there through Friday morning.  Anything not needed by th Pass, we will probably deliver over to Waveland and Bay.
I hope this info helps.  I know we have been working on this for 2 weeks, when there really wasn't anything coming in (except water and food from Salvation Army).  Thanks to Robin Robert's effort I am sure there will be a huge out pouring now.  Our effort may be just a little dent to tide them over til things really get rolling in from Home Depot, etc.  Then we need to help Waveland and other areas like the Pass not receiving!
Thanks again to Robin and GMA  for bringing the plight of the Pass to light!!!

Gayane Morse Chambless
919 643-0710

Here's another Hurricane Katrina Relief story!
     What can we, the people of Hillsborough, do to make a difference in the lives of those suffering from Hurricane Katrina? How can we make sure that the supplies that we donate are received by the people in need?  Those were the questions that we: Amy Hardee, Gayane Chambless and Becky Gordon, asked ourselves, then we went looking for answers.  It was in the search for ideas that we met up with Benny Sparrow, of the Daniel Boone Merchants’ Association and the plan started to develop into the following project. The first paragraph explains the who; the next paragraph explains the why and the how.  
     Twenty-five years!  That’s how long it has been since I had seen some of my old friends.  We were looking forward to getting together and reminiscing at our 25th High School Reunion this spring.  Unfortunately, that was not meant to be…our high school no longer exists.  For that matter, our town has virtually been wiped out.  Katrina saw to that.  
     I went to high school in a small town where everyone knows everyone.  Everyone cares and helps each other.  It is a town much like Hillsborough, which is why I came to call Hillsborough my hometown after getting married.  But Pass Christian, Mississippi is the hometown that first taught me what it was like to be part of a community.  It is the place where I learned my family values, and how a community supports one another.  It didn’t matter whether you were black, white, or Asian.  It didn’t matter whether you were rich or poor.  We all had one thing in common:  we were a community.  We were people of the “Pass.”  But the people of Pass cannot help each other very much anymore.  They have nothing to help with.  There is nothing left.  Well, nothing but that unquenchable spirit of the place and the people who survived not just Katrina, but Camille 36 years before that.  This is the 2nd time this small community about the size of Hillsborough has been squashed by Mother Nature.  
     Last time it took about 25 years to recover.  When I lived in Pass Christian, our public library was the size of the children’s section at Hillsborough’s library.  We didn’t have much, but we appreciated what we had.  I hope that it does not take this lovely historic community 25 years to recover again.  With the grace of God, and those willing to help I know that the people of that town can make it come alive again.  The people of Hillsborough are a compassionate people.  If it had been our town here in Hillsborough that was reduced to rubble I know that the resiliency of our residents would reach out, help one another and would see to it that this town rebuild.  But it is hard to do it alone.  But we are not alone; we are part of a larger community, a community of caring Americans.  It is for this reason, I ask you to support the Daniel Boone Merchants Association adoption of this town, and help us fill a truck with much needed supplies.  These are the bare necessities to sustain life at this time in a community that has otherwise been overlooked by FEMA, Red Cross and many other agencies.
    The town’s fire department, rescue squad and police department were essentially wiped out.   The people in that area need baby items (diapers, wipes, bottles, etc), First Aid (Band-Aids, Neosporin, peroxide, etc), bug spray, sunscreen, personal hygiene items, batteries, can openers, and naturally canned food and fruit as well as water.  Generators too are in desperate need   Monetary donations for relief effort are needed and welcomed.  The truck that will be at the Daniel Boone Shopping Center on Sept. 24th  is owned by  Robert Travis of Pass Christian, and the truck only survived because the owner was on the road making deliveries at the time of Hurricane Katrina.  Robert Travis, together with volunteers Amy Hardee and Gayane Chambless will be able to bring the donations directly into the town and surrounding areas which have not seen much, if any support from government agencies.
      WHAT: We need to fill a transfer truck of supplies to be delivered to the town of Pass Christian, Mississippi to help the people that are in a town considered too small to be addressed immediately.
      WHEN: Collection will be received at the Daniel Boone Store beside Balloons Above Orange-- starting Sept 12-during the day through Benny Sparrow and in the evening between 5:00- 7:00 and on Saturday from 10:00- 4:00 and continuing the following week until the Daniel Boone Yard Sale.  The truck will leave for Pass Christian Saturday Sept 24th in the evening.  

     On behalf of the people of Pass Christian I thank Hillsborough
and Orange County residents for their support.

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