The check's in the mail! $32,000 goes to help Katrina victims
By Sue Keller -- Marco Island Sun Times
"It's not like I have done this type of stuff before in my life. I haven't," said Island Country Club president Hans Hoenig. "With Katrina, I had the urge." The day after Katrina struck, Hoenig called Bob Furek, a fellow member of the club, to talk. Both men agreed that - as a club - they wanted to do something for the victims of the disaster.
On the following Sunday, Linda Hoenig, Hans' wife, came home from church and shared what Father Kyle Bennett at St. Mark's Episcopal Church talked about during his sermon.
"But for the grace of God, it could have as easily been Marco Island," Bennett told his parishioners. He also described the total destruction of the communities of Pass Christian and Long Beach from information he received from colleagues and friends. Bennett recently served as Rector at St. Patrick's Episcopal Church in Long Beach, Mississippi.
Hans Hoenig and Furek decided they wanted to hone in on one singular area of relief, rather than just give money to one of the larger relief organizations.
"We wanted to personalize it," said Hoenig.
Furek contacted Wes Blackwell, chairman of the ICC Charitable Foundation. Blackwell enthusiastically endorsed the fund-raiser for the communities of Long Beach and Pass Christian.
Marco Island resident Pat Ferguson, a CPA, suggested to Hoenig that he might want to go see Judy Perez, who was in the preliminary stages of organizing M.A.C.K. (Marco Alliance Concerning Katrina). Perez and Hoenig discussed how they might specifically help the two sister communities in Mississippi.
The Island Country Club then took it a step further, deciding to focus their efforts on the Pass Christian Public Library and the Coast Episcopal School.
"The Coast Episcopal School was mostly intact, although they did have damage like everyone else," said Bennett, who visited the devastated area soon after Katrina hit.
Letters went out to members of the Island Country Club on Sept. 12, informing them that the club's Board of Directors - together with the Board of the ICC Charitable Foundation - unanimously decided to help with the recovery effort.
The member's response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The fund-raiser was also opened to the Marco community as a whole. Their first fund-raiser, held on November 11, included breakfast, a golf and tennis tournament, lunch and prizes.
Members paid $500 for individuals or $750 for couples. "Several members contributed without playing in the tournament," said Hoenig. "One woman sent a $1,000 check. That was incredible."
Putting a face on their fund-raiser was important, according to Hoenig and Furek. "First, we focused on a community. And then, we focused on two specific places."
In November, the Headmaster of Coast Episcopal School, Paul Stephens, was invited to Marco Island for a few days of much needed rest and relaxation. While visiting, he was able to participate in the Island Country Club's Golf Fund-raiser.
Stephens also brought members up to date on the reconstruction effort at the two communities. Currently, Coast Episcopal School is the only school now open in the area.
"The school is very important to the community, serving temporarily as their community meeting center," added Bennett.
According to Bennett, three months after Hurricane Katrina made landfall, only 500 homes out of 9,000 in Pass Christian are habitable. The rest of the remaining residents are living in tents, set up on the slabs where their homes once stood.
"All communities need a place where people can socialize. In Pass Christian and Long Beach, there is no permanent structure where members of those communities can gather to lend support and just talk," he noted. "Helping to rebuild the library is a start in getting their lives back to normal."
Two checks, totaling $32,000 in donated funds from Marco Islanders, were made out to the school and the library. They were both put in the mail on Monday.
Soon, that money will help bring back a "normal" life in Long Beach and Pass Christian.