Summer camp, hurricane prep featured at Main Street meeting

Published 7:00 am Saturday, May 20, 2017

Attendees of the Picayune Main Street general membership meeting heard about the Picayune Police Summer Camp and the preparations required prior to a hurricane making landfall.
Picayune Police Department Capt. Theresa Milar has been heading up the police department’s summer camp since its inception 15 years ago. Each year the camp grows in popularity, with available spots filling up in less than an hour for one of the two age groups this year, she said.
The aim of the camp is not to provide financially disadvantaged families with a free baby-sitting opportunity during the summer. Milar said the goal is to allow any family to provide their children with a fun learning experience that also allows them to see police officers are not to be feared.
That’s why the enrollment process is first come first served, she said. To ensure it’s fair, Milar said the applications are accepted the same day each year, the second Monday of April.
Each year the camps provide the children with fun field trips mixed with learning experiences. The challenge is staying within the $10,000 to $12,000 budget she has available to fund camps for two age groups during two separate weeks. Funding comes from donations from local business owners and individuals.
Milar is also involved with the local Toys for Tots drive, held each year to provide disadvantaged families with toys during Christmas. The toy drive began locally in 1995, but was not officially part of the national Toys for Tots organization until three to four years later. That first year, the effort kicked off as a way to get rid of an overabundance of Power Ranger toys. Milar said she got two calls from organizations trying to get rid of the excess stock. After which she had more than 4,000 of the popular toys to distribute to the community.
After officially joining the national organization, the local effort had accountability. Each year, Picayune’s Toys for Tots provides Christmas presents to between 700 to 1,200 Pearl River County children, and each child typically gets up to 8 toys.
After Milar’s presentation, Assistant Fire Chief Barry Lee spoke to attendees about the importance of being prepared for hurricane season. It’s been more than 11 years since the last major storm made landfall in Pearl River County. Lee said with each passing year, residents become more complacent in their preparations.
City departments begin preparations 96 hours from a storm’s projected landfall. Lee said that effort ensures city employees are ready, and that all the paperwork is ready to submit for reimbursement from the state or federal government.
One of the major concerns is contraflow. Lee said because it typically takes up to four hours to reach Picayune from Lake Ponchartrain during contraflow, people are ready to get off the interstate at Picayune and find a place to get gas and buy supplies. It’s then that these supplies are exhausted locally.
Lee shared tips for community members as well, including keeping fuel canisters in vented areas away from open flames and heat, stocking up on necessary medical supplies, using generators away from the home and being mindful when using candles during a power outage.
He also expressed the need for people to avoid power lines, no matter if it appears dead or not.
Ultimately, what city leaders hope residents will do is consider evacuating during a storm, especially if that person needs special care.

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