Carbondale rolls out ‘Red Ball Express’
CARBONDALE – Yvette and Wes Powell, of Carbondale, are ready to hit the ground running as part of the town and the local fire department’s joint effort to assist the hurricane ravaged community of Pearlington, Miss.So is Sharon Taverna, whose husband Frank Taverna has opened an empty store space in his Red Rock Plaza on Highway 133 in Carbondale as a collection center for donated goods.”Some of us are prepared to go down and stay for a couple of weeks and work on the ground there,” said Yvette Powell, who grew up in the Gulf Coast community of Bay St. Louis, about eight miles east of Pearlington.”It’s just part of who I am, and it’s something I feel like I need to do,” she said.”I’m just overwhelmed at what Carbondale wants to do for that community,” added Sharon Taverna, also a Mississippi native, following a community meeting at the Carbondale Fire House Thursday night that was attended by about 100 citizens, town and fire department officials.The meeting was intended to gauge the level of support – in terms of donations of money and supplies, as well as volunteer help from the community – for what organizers have coined the name “Red Ball Express,” after a World War II supply service that kept the front lines supplied.After Hurricane Katrina hit the region in late August, Carbondale Fire Chief Ron Leach, Police Chief Gene Schilling, town manager Tom Baker and other officials put their heads together to figure out where Carbondale could direct its relief efforts.”It came down to a question of where we wanted to focus our efforts, and we learned of the town of Pearlington, which was kind of off the radar screen,” Leach said.The community of about 1,600 people located near the Louisiana-Mississippi state line just east of New Orleans, took a direct hit from the hurricane and was almost completely destroyed.”It’s a relatively poor community, and there is a real sense of urgency there,” Leach said. “The fire house and fire trucks were damaged beyond repair, and most of the city buildings were destroyed.”Most of the people left, but many are starting to come back and are camping on their lots because their houses are gone. It’s truly a desperate situation for these people,” he said.Leach said they plan to pool town and fire department resources, along with private donations, to transport camping gear and other basic supplies to the region.But Leach is also being careful at this point to make sure the project, which could potentially consume a lot of time and resources, doesn’t get ahead of itself.”We can’t run this program ourselves, we need some help,” he said. “We are going on the cheap for now. But if it grows it will get more expensive, and it will have to be managed by professionals.”To start, on Monday the town plans to send at least a pickup truck-load of goods, or more if money and resources allow, along with a 1989 Chevy ambulance which the local fire department is donating to the Pearlington fire department. Four members of the volunteer fire department will take turns driving the caravan.Donated supplies (see accompanying list of needed supplies) are being collected in the empty store space at the south end of the Red Rock Plaza daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.The town is also collecting monetary donations for the effort. Checks can be dropped off at town hall or the fire house, and may also be made at Alpine Banks (Carbondale Fire Katrina Relief Fund).”We’ll see where it goes, but I’d ideally like to see us send teams down there twice a month for three months to transport and distribute the supplies to those who need them,” Leach said. “But that gets expensive, and that’s why fund-raising is very critical.” Leach has already solicited the organizational help of Darrell Nelson, a good friend of his and a retired Coast Guard logistics expert from the Washington, D.C., area who passed through Pearlington on his way to Carbondale earlier this week.”Their fire chief basically told me they need anything and everything,” Nelson said. “There’s also over 51 million tons of debris that needs to be hauled out of there.”Leach said the town currently has a little more than $5,000 in the bank for the relief effort, but each trip to Pearlington and back is expected to cost in the range of $3,000.Town manager Baker said both the town and the fire department are donating seed money to get the project rolling but don’t want to spend a lot of taxpayer money on the relief effort.”This is an organized and thoughtful approach using emergency management skills,” Baker said. “We are creating a template for this type of response that can be shared with other towns.”Also, Aspen Glen is hosting a benefit golf tournament Tuesday, Oct. 4. Call Aspen Glen for information.
Heres a list of the most needed equipment for the Red Ball Express project to help with Hurricane Katrina relief in Carbondales adopted sister city of Pearlington, Miss.Wind up/Battery clocksPortable radiosL.H. square point shovelsSolar showersCamp toiletsYard rakesHand towelsHand sanitizerAxesBow sawsTowelsSheetsPillow casesPillowsWashclothsCooking utensilsEating utensilsHousehold cleaning suppliesCamping equipmentCoolersColeman lanternsColeman fuelColeman stovesPropane lampsPropane stovesCotsFirst aid kits33-gallon trash cansWeber grillCharcoal lighterCooking grillsLawn chairsColeman mantlesCigarette lightersPlastic dry boxesCamp tablesBug sprayBox D batteriesBox C batteriesBox AA batteriesBox AAA batteriesTarpsWork gloves5-gallon plastic water cansBoom boxesHeadlampsFolding chairsFlashlightsCigarette lightersCandlesMatchesPlastic storage boxes33-gallon trash can linersPaper towelsToilet paperCoffee potsCan openersDish soapParacordClothes pinsCoffee cupsToiletry itemsSkin lotionSun screenHatchets62 waist underwear62x29 work pantsCall the fire department for more info at 963-2491, or go to carbondalegov.org or carbondalefire.org and click on Katrina Relief. Donations are being accepted at the Carbondale Fire Department, Town Hall or Alpine Bank (Carbondale Fire Katrina Relief Fund).
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