By Jodi Marze, Lifestyles Editor
The Picayune Item
Throughout this past weekend, many local residents spent time either making donations or helping sort through them for disaster aid going to residents in Redhook, New Jersey and Rockaway, New York, in Queens.
The effort was named Operation “Because We Remember” and as of Monday, at 3 p.m., had taken in $15,200 in monetary donations for supplies and had acquired 13 pallets of donated items to fill two 18 wheel trucks, located at Manna Ministries and donated for use by Huey Stockstill Industries and Pearl River Community College.
Rockaway is a community of approximately 100,000 that sent supplies to Picayune after Katrina.
Picayune Fire Chief Keith Brown recounted how the effort began.
“Allen Hickman of Resurrection Life had the vision and he met with Mayor Ed Pinero, Sandy Kane Smith and myself to share ways he knew we could coordinate our resources and give back. He, and many others here, remembered that particular community sending us disaster aid after Katrina.
From that meeting, Brown drafted a letter and emailed it to many community leaders asking that they share it with others.
Churches and civic groups throughout the county and part of La. responded to the request.
PRCC Vice President for Economic and Community Development Scott Alsobrooks, Ph.D. said, ”Pearl River Community College (PRCC) is fortunate to be in a position to assist those in need in both New York and the Atlantic states. PRCC and South Miss. received an abundance of goodwill and assistance in those difficult post Katrina days. PRCC Commercial Driving Instructors, Daniel Smith and Jason Brown, did not hesitate at the opportunity to transport these relief supplies to help those in need.”
Of the community response to the request for aid, Mayor Pinero said, “I am excited and thankful for the tremendous support of our citizens. We are truly blessed to have so many caring people in Picayune and Pearl River County.”
Billy Martin and Dawn Bechtel of Resurrection Life Ministries coordinated volunteers and loading of the trucks.
Martin said, “There has been a great effort made to make this a success from as far away as Franklinton, La. We were all effected by Hurricane Katrina and we know from experience the items that we needed and what worked. The residents in the community have been communicating their needs for things like coats, baby formula and diapers. We are also sending water, cleaning supplies, peanut butter, cans of ravioli and prepared food items.
“We are able to use every cent that has been donated to buy additional items that we know they will need, thanks to the transportation vehicles and gas being donated. There should be at least 32 pallets of items being split between the two towns.”
Bechtel said, “The outpouring of generosity has far exceeded our expectations. People even took time off of work today to come and either volunteer or donate items.”
“It truly does my heart good to know that we can give back to people who helped us. Just remembering back to Katrina, it was a blessing to see those (disaster relief) trucks show up in our time of need with no strings attached. The people driving them would just say, ‘Here; this is for you.’ Efforts like this are not mandated, they come from the heart,” said Brown.
Councilman Wayne Gouget agreed and said, “I’m so excited that we are making use of this opportunity to give back to the generous people who helped us so much in our time of need.”