Letter # 2 for Friends and Family

from a trip for supplies to Pensacola, FL


September 12, 2005

Hello, everyone,

It's been four days since we left Bay St. Louis and just being able to get away has enabled us to clear our heads and try to figure out what to do next. I cannot put into words what it's like not knowing what to do. You would think that Dave and I would relish the opportunity to do whatever outlandish idea popped into our minds, but when it really comes down to it, we usually DO have an end-goal in mind. This--the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina--has thrown us for a loop though. But then again, EVERYONE on the Gulf Coast has.

SO many of you have said that you want to do something. If you truly mean that, then here's what we wish:

Go to www.gulfcoastnews.com and click on "Hancock County Report." It's the third link beneath "Mississippi Coast Area News." Mark Proulx is doing a fantastic job "telling it like it is," and though you may not like what he has to say about the American Red Cross and FEMA, trust me: it's true. When we were in Bay St. Louis last week, their presence -- or rather LACK of it -- was disturbing.

When you assimilate the news coming from Hancock County (where Bay St. Louis and Waveland are located) you will understand the e-message I sent to Mark today:

Mark, you are doing such a terrific job getting CORRECT information to those of us who want to know what's going on in Hancock County. We live in
Bay St. Louis, and like so many others, lost everything. Fortunately, we have a small truck/camper and so we still have a "home." After going back
for four days last week, we've been at a campground in Robertsdale, Alabama, where there is good cell service and connectivity, so we've been able to
get the ball rolling on our stuff (claims, etc.)

Question: We have been deluged with e-mails of "what can we do? what can we send?" and I was wondering if Joe Williams up at Stennis has an address
that we can direct packages to.

When we were there last week, we did see Fed Ex trucks, so they must be getting packages out. Please let me know, because we can start a flood of
much-needed stuff.

Thanks so much, Mark,

Maria & Dave Russell

Mark wrote back saying:

A Hancock County Disaster Relief Fund has been set up to receive monetary donations from people who wish to donate DIRECTLY to Hancock County, instead of it being absorbed by the Red Cross or other organization that would not send the money to the people who need it most right now.

P.O. BOX 550

Quite frankly, I'm amazed at the lack of support from the Red Cross so far, and am overjoyed by how well our people are handling this and doing for themselves with absolutely nothing. They are strong people...but they desperately need our support to rebuild and getting very tired. Please, if you can, call the phone number above or send money directly to Hancock County.

If you are planning to drive donations in with trucks, I can guide you in and let Joe know you are coming. Items they need right now:

Cots, mattresses, sheets, towels, soap, cleaning supplies, bleach, Lysol, mops, sqeegees, soft drinks, coffee, creamer, sugar, milk, fresh fruit and most of all - MANPOWER!!! These poor people have been struggling to survive, now they are left to clean up the mess virtually all by themselves.

Dear readers, "Joe" is JOE WILLIAMS, the guy coordinating the relief effort originating from Stennis (the biggest supplier of jobs in the area as well as the site where the engines for the space shuttles are tested.) You can read about Joe in Mark's latest Hancock report.

So, if you want to send MONEY, make a check out to HANCOCK COUNTY DISASTER RELIEF FUND and send it to the address above.

If you and your church or work group want to gather the much needed items listed above (and to that I would add sleeping bags, tents, and any kind of camping equipment), contact MARK PROULX at 786-543-4559 or e-mail him at mxpowerdive@hotmail.com and find out how you can get it to Joe Williams.

Dave and I are only able to make short-term plans right now. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will drive up to Hopkinsville, Kentucky and close down Kate and Steve's house like we told them we would. When the hurricane first struck, we thought we'd go up there and live for awhile. Over the past couple of weeks, though, it has become clear that our hearts are in Bay St. Louis and we want to be as much a part of the clean up as we want to be a part of the rebuild.

So, probably on Saturday, we'll head over to BSL and see what we can do to help.

On another note, this experience has prompted us to do things we have never done before. Like today. Our friend, Chuck, told us that we ought to register with the American Red Cross, as hurricane victims were entitled to some monetary compensation to assist them with food, emergency housing, etc. So we drove to Pensacola and waited in line. And waited. And waited. We were in line with people from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. They were young and old, and worked at casinos, retail stores, restaurants, and a myriad of other businesses. Everyone had come here, just doing what they heard needed to be done. None of us had ever been in this situation. We have never been on such an even playing field before.

After about three hours we finally were able to talk with a counselor who filled out the necessary forms.

So, all in all, this is quite an experience. Certainly one that I will never forget. It really makes me wonder what tomorrow will bring. I've always thought that variety is the spice of life.

Be sure to log on to www.gulfcoastnews.com and if you can help Hancock County, that would be awesome. Thank you so much!!!!

Maria & Dave