Picayune student heading effort to send help to Amish

Published 11:07 pm Saturday, October 7, 2006

After Hurricane Katrina, a group in Paradise, Penn., formed an effort called “Paradise to Picayune” to send and bring relief to people in the Picayune area suffering in the aftermath of the hurricane’s devastating passage through town.

A key element of that relief were members of the Amish faith who twice came to Picayune and Pearl River County to help the elderly, the indigent and local churches with repairs, especially reroofing.

Friday afternoon, Picayune Memorial High School senior Kasey Mitchell met with Picayune Mayor Greg Mitchell, City Manager Ed Pinero and other city department heads to begin planning fund-raising efforts to send money to Nickel Mines, Penn., which is next door to Paradise, to help the Amish there with medical expenses resulting from the murder of five Amish girls and the wounding of five others at their school in the small community in that part of Pennsylvania known as “Amish Country.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

One of the girls wounded in the shooting is the cousin of Elmer King, who was one of the men who made two trips to Picayune to help with repairs and reroofing following the hurricane. The eight-year-old student’s older brother had just returned to Nickel Mines from Pass Christian where he had gone with another group of the Amish to assist in relief efforts in that devastated town.

Katherine Wood-Jacobs, a Red Cross volunteer from Paradise who came to Picayune to help at the local hurricane shelter, is helping with efforts in Paradise and Nickel Mines to raise funds for the medical expenses because the Amish don’t have medical insurance. Wood-Jacobs helped organize the effort to bring the Amish south to help Picayune.

Asked by Mayor Mitchell why she was doing this, Kasey Mitchell said, “I really want to … They helped us. I’m just so thankful I can do it as my senior project.” She was at the meeting with her project mentor, Dawn Bechtel, who has worked with youth in the Picayune area for many years, including stints with the Boys and Girls Club and with the Picayune school system.

Mayor Mitchell opened the meeting telling the group, “I remember a little over a year ago when we sat here almost helpless and the volunteers who came to Picayune to help us. … Not only did they help us get going again, they gave us hope.”

The city is setting up a special account through which to funnel donations to the relief fund set up at the Coatesville Bank in Paradise. Among the efforts planned Friday are letters that Kasey Mitchell will compose to go out to local businesses seeking donations and to go Picayune school district staff members and home with Picayune students seeking a donation of $1 from each child and staff member in the school system.

Also tentatively planned is a boot drive to be conducted next weekend by the Picayune Fire Department. Many of the Amish men who came to Picayune to help are members of volunteer fire departments back in Pennsylvania and at least one small crew of the Amish helped a local volunteer fire department fight a woods fire while they were here on their second trip.

Mayor Mitchell said the boot drive will have to be formally approved by the Picayune City Council, which he plans to seek Monday afternoon with a called meeting at which time he plans to make the first donation to the relief fund while asking City Council members to join him in making a donation.

The fund raising effort will run through the Picayune Street Fair on Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6, with booth set up at the fair to accept donations.

The goal of the effort is to raise at least $10,000. The fire department is planning to place a sign along U.S. 11 to keep track of how much is being raised.