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Safe Harbor seeks help to help the children

The Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation will learn in November if it will get additional money to help continue its Safe Harbor program for school children affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Children are one of the unspoken victims of Hurricane Katrina with no place to play and small places to live. School summer camps are a welcome change of pace for the those small victims of the storm.

Safe Harbor, a program through the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation, has provided children in those affected areas with a place to go during the summer, and the foundation would like to continue its efforts with an after school program until Christmas.

To continue the program, the foundation needs to raise money through donations from like-minded organizations.

The program offers parents the opportunity to find work and children the opportunity interact with other children while escaping the confines of a Federal Emergency Management Agency temporary housing unit, said Dr. Ted Alexander, chief executive officer for the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.

LPRV has received about $600,000 in donations and grants for the program and is asking the National Recreation Foundation in Indianapolis, Ind., to contribute what it can to help keep Safe Harbor alive, Alexander said.

“If we can get that, we can very easily do an after school program until Christmas,” Alexander said about about his request for a grant fromthe foundation.

Tony Mobley, executive director for the National Recreation Foundation, came to Mississippi for a visit Tuesday and was taken on a tour of the Bay-Waveland Middle School summer camp, a school in one of the four districts participating in the Safe Harbor program. The school summer camp’s program of structured activities helps to keep children’s minds off their current living conditions, Alexander said.

“Young people in a time of stress like this need to have something like this,” Mobley said as he toured the campus. “They’re at a very vulnerable period in their life.”

The Bay-Waveland school district is one of four school districts in coastal Mississippi that participate in the Safe Harbor Program. The others are Pearl River County, Picayune and Poplarville school districts, said Louise Smith, support staff specialist for Poplarville schools.

The foundation heard about the Safe Harbor program through Bob Stuart, legal counsel for the foundation’s board. Mobley said he came to Mississippi to look into the program further. The National Recreation Foundation looks for programs that adhere to their mission, which is to help children at risk and to educate them on living a healthy lifestyle, Mobley said.

“If I ever saw a program that fit into that mission, this is it,” Mobley said as he toured the school.

When the National Recreation Foundation considers helping a program, the organization looks to see if the program is new and innovative, if the program has potential to continue and if it can be implemented in other communities, Mobley said.

During the tour Mobley witnessed the children being entertained by Adela Adela the Storyteller, keeping fit by playing the video game Dance Dance Revolution, participating in an obstacle course, creating various arts and crafts and participating in a program backed by the Pearson Foundation. In the Pearson Foundation program, children learned how to use the same software used in Hollywood studios to make videos, said Ben Lewis, a Pearson Foundation representative. Along with Andy Lewis and Seth Everts, the three Pearson Foundation representatives will help eighth grade students make a movie covering the history of their area, what the area went through in the storm and what the students would like to see happen in the future, Ben Lewis said.

Psychologists also are on hand at the camp to help children through this difficult time in their lives.

Recently, the black widow spider population in the Bay-Waveland area boomed since most of the cricket’s other natural predators were wiped out during the storm, providing more food for the dangerous arachnid, said school psychologist Katharine Ohman. Ohman said she and her colleague have been educating the children on what the spider looks like and to avoid them, with a live spider caught in the area. Ohman and her colleague also help the children with sleeping and eating disorders, she said.

Mobley said the National Recreation Foundation could be prepared to offer between $250,000 and $500,000 to the Safe Harbor program after the foundation has their next board meeting in early November. If the foundation decides to offer the grant to the program, it will be the largest amount ever givenby them, Mobley said.

“We are very hopeful that we will get a positive response from the National Recreation Foundation,” Alexander said.