By Todd Cohen
PINEHURST, N.C. – To support recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a Moore County group has enlisted more than 20 active volunteers and raised more than $150,000 to address needs in Bay St. Louis, Miss.
“We’re trying to match resources here with needs there,” says Bob Boone, co-chair of Moore Friends for Mississippi and vice president for professional services at FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
Moore Friends is among a small corps of organizations and individuals in the county pitching in to provide support for Katrina evacuees and for Gulf Coast communities hit by Katrina.
The American Red Cross Moore County Chapter has provided financial assistance for roughly 35 evacuee families who relocated to the county, and referred them to physicians and health clinics, says Joan Poole, executive director.
The Red Cross also helped connect evacuee families with other local agencies for needs such as housing; helped people find relatives displaced by the storm; trained and sent 35 volunteers to the Gulf; trained another 50 volunteers to handle Katrina-related needs in Moore County; and worked with the Southern Pines office of AMTI in Virginia Beach, Va., which helped pay for housing for three evacuee families.
“The outpouring of people wanting to help, giving not only their financial help, but also their time, was most gratifying,” Poole says.
The Sandhills/Moore Coalition for Human Care, which works to meet emergency needs of local families by providing support such as food, clothing and financial aid, has provided assistance to three evacuee families, says Caroline Eddy, executive director.
The connection to one of those families was made through Moore Friends, a coalition formed in response to a front-page column in The Pilot by Steve Bouser, its editor.
The coalition, chaired by Southern Pines Mayor Frank Quis, adopted the town of Bay St. Louis, Miss.
When the column was published, Boone was working with the Mississippi Hospital Association to adopt a hospital in the Gulf.
He and Bouser, both members of the Southern Pines Rotary Club, decided to combine efforts and convened a handful of volunteers.
Kelly Miller, general manager of Pine Needles and Mid Pines golf clubs, and former owner of Southeast Air Charter at Moore County Airport, arranged to loan a plane to the group to fly to the Gulf.
Recognizing during the trip that many immediate needs were being met, Boone says, the group decided to match resources to address needs identified by officials in Bay St. Louis.
Grant Roper, general manager of Bill Smith Ford, for example, helped secure deeply-discounted uniforms from the Baltimore-based Football Foundation of America for the high school team in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Boone secured 50 pair of cleats from New Balance Shoes.
Ron Kirby of Kirby Construction located four Army surplus general-purpose medium tents to be used as warehouse space in Bay St. Louis to store relief items being shipped there.
The group also acquired from Lowe’s, at a discount, 5,000 electrical switches and 5,000 electrical sockets for residential use in Bay St. Louis.
FirstHealth agreed to contribute $1 to hurricane relief for every $1 its physicians, employees and volunteers donated to annual fundraising drives by United Ways in the seven counties in which its employees live.
To match individual contributions totaling $111,000 to those drives through Nov. 11, FirstHealth is giving $16,000 to support Katrina evacuees in Richmond County and $95,000 to support relief efforts by Moore Friends.
The donation to Moore Friends includes $40,000 to buy $100 Wal-Mart gift cards for each of 400 employees of Hancock Medical Center in Bay St. Louis.
FirstHealth also is helping to coordinate efforts by six other communities that have adopted Bay St. Louis.
Working with the New Hampshire Hospital Association and a Doylestown Hospital in Pennsylvania, for example, FirstHealth has helped coordinate the outfitting of 65 rooms at Hancock Medical Center.
Moore Friends also plans to adopt a park in Bay St. Louis, and coordinated the donation of a trailer by a family in Vass as housing for an evacuee family.
And the Moore County Homebuilders Association is collecting power tools to send to homebuilders in Bay St. Louis.
“We’re reaching out to meet very specific identified needs, and it resonates with the community,” Boone says.
Contributions from First Health total roughly 30 percent more than in any previous campaign, he says.
Those contributions also account for nearly one-third of funds raised by United Way of Moore County, says Linda Pearson, executive director.
With a goal of $625,000, the drive by Nov. 10 had raised over $382,000, she says.
The impact of Katrina “makes people want to do more in their own community when they see what has happened to some others,” she says.
“They know and they understand that the people in the Gulf region need help,” she says. “They also know and understand that people here continue to need help as well.”