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Hurricane Katrina Disaster Relief in Mississippi

Photo by Timothy Burdick, Brooks Institute of PhotographyHurricane Katrina was our next disaster relief commitment eight months after we began Kirwin International Relief Foundation (KIRF) with our first disaster relief project in response to the Andaman Sea Tsunami catastrophe in Thailand. Our inititial goal was modest due to our small size and funding: help a few families get back on their feet with living supplies they lost when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes. The specifics of how we were going to do this was worked out after we got to the disaster area and met with local people affected by the hurricane who we met through mutual friends and business aquaintances here in California.

Hurricane Katrina Relief Concert Fund RaiserIn the weeks after the hurricane hit on August 29th we held a fundraiser on October 1st with five bands who donated their entertainment, donated food from local restaurants and some local media coverage. Youth members from two area Roots & Shoots groups, the Great Pacific Child Development Center in Ventura and Ojai Blackhawks in Ojai,  helped us raise funds by volunteering at the party or donating raffle prizes. Our own Roots & Shoots group raisded funds at school by collecting spare change in mason jars in their classes with signs on them that read "Give a little & help a lot for hurricane Katrina relief".

On October 13th, KIRF’s co-founder, Angela Kirwin flew to Mississippi - with photojournalist and volunteer, Timothy Burdick - with donations that KIRF raised for the hurricane Katrina survivors.

One of the hurricane-made-homelss families we helpedOnce in Mississippi we were able to help hurricane victims in the towns of Hattiesburg, Picayune and Gulfport with the generous support and donations raised that we and our volunteers had raised.

Angela Kirwin returned to Mississippi to finish distributing donations raised for hurricane Katrina relief with volunteer and International Humanities Center president Steve Sugarman on November 17th.

Hurricane-made-homeless men with some living supplies provided by KIRF's donorsAfter we saw the devastation first hand and spoke with the hurricane displaced people in MS our goals for hurricane Katrina relief were clear:
  • Deliver living supplies (eg: kitchen and bathroom supplies, cleaning supplies, bedding and in some cases, clothing and school supplies) to families who lost their homes and who were most in need of assistance as identified to us by their children's school teachers and school district administrators
  • Connect these "most in need" homeless families with local community leaders who could help them get a FEMA trailer or other assistance
  • Emphasize to the displaced kids their specialness as "survivors" and the concern for them by other kids outside of the Gulf Coast with a Roots & Shoots youth service project that shows care and concern for the human community: our Holiday Card Exchange that connected elementary school children in California with elementary children affected by Hurricane Katrina in Picayune, MS
  • Purchase infant and children's comfort toys for the hurricane damaged but busy pediatric ward of the Gulfport Memorial Hospital
  • Provide winter clothing donated by Patagonia to families still sleeping outside
Roots & Shoots Holiday Card Exchange
January 10 , 2006
by Angela Kirwin

Holiday Card created by Third grader at Will Rogers Elementary School in Ventura, CaliforniaOur Kirwin Family Roots & Shoots initiated a Holiday Card Exchange with several hundred elementary school students affected by hurricane Katrina in Picayune, MS. Click here to read more about Roots & Shoots Holiday Card Exchange.



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Hurricane Disaster Tips: Lessons Learned from Hurricane Katrina in Petal, Mississippi
January 10 , 2006
by Angela Kirwin with Petal City Alderman James Moore

We learned a lot in post-hurricane Katrina Mississippi about what to expect after a major disaster hits and how to prepare for one. Our generous host, tour guide and local KIRF volunteer James Moore – alderman for the woodsy subburb of Petal and owner of Moore's Bike Shop in the neighboring city Hattiesburg – gave us an insider's view of what happened to their town during the worst hurricane in memory. The eye of the hurricane passed over Petal with winds in excess of 150 mph that turned the ubiquitous pine trees into destructive missles. Even though the town was approximately 80 miles north of the Gulf Coast the hurricane's powerful winds tore up many of the homes and buisinesses in the area. Nearly every single home had a blue "FEMA" tarp covering its wind damaged roof when we visited six weeks after the hurricane hit.

A Hattiesburg resident only lost her garage and her roofto Hurricane KatrinaHe described to me how the local city council and citizens of Petal struggled to maintain a civilized society in the first weeks after Katrina hit on August 29th. People were taking care of each other with no water and power service, no cell phone reception, closed stores and banks and gas stations, roads blocked with fallen trees and power lines and a crime wave of looting. I asked him how a town in California or elsewhere should prepare for a large-scale disaster. My question and his interesting answers are below.

Angela Kirwin: I remember that Petal needed to procure it's own source of fuel for emergency vehicles and needed more generators for electricity. Are there any other areas of disaster preparedness that should be addressed? I'm thinking of evacuation plans, shelters for residents and their pets, long-term assistance or relocation for displaced working class folks, crime prevention, emergency water and food aid within 24 hours and debris removal.

James Moore: Most of what I'd impart about our lessons on preparedness are included in your paragraph above.  I'd rate the importance of preparedness as follows:
       1.  Water and sewer must be able to operate without the power companies being in operation.  That means generators for both water pumps and sewer facilities.  You cannot deliver water into homes if you cannot also carry sewage away. 
       2.  Food.  Families should have several days of nonperishable food on hand at all times.  Part of your preparedness plan could be to constantly run PSA's to remind the public of this need. 
       3.  Merchants should all have a plan outlining how they will make their food products available in a fair and orderly manner without the availability of electricity.  The public should consider "cash" as part of their emergency stockpile as checks or plastic will be useless in a disaster.
        4.  Banks need a plan to quickly give customers access to their money in the form of cash.  Panic sets in when folks have money they cannot use to get the things they desperately need.
         5.  Ice.  Most of the usual sources of ice will see their inventory of ice melt before they are able to begin selling it.  Ice is needed for two functions.  First it allows families to make their frozen and refrigerated foods last the 3 to 4 days before governmental food sources are available and secondly many medications must be refrigerated.  Locations should be established where medications may be stored by the public.  Our police department provided this service via several refrigerators at the station powered by the stations generator.  Pharmacies could also offer this service provided they have generator capacity.
       6.  Law and order.  The most stressful aspect of Katrina was the realization that we were on the brink of a break down of civilazation.  The peace was very fragile.  The police need a plan of curfews that are rigidly enforced and the public needs to know ahead of time what to expect from law enforcement.  There must be a contingency to lock up large numbers of citizens even to the extent of waiving some of the due process normally afforded in usual times.  Looting in Hattiesburg was only brought under control when the media reported the existence of a "fence city" erected by the police where ANYONE on the streets after 6PM spent the night.  There will be plenty of time to argue civil philosophy following the disaster–maintain order during the disaster with any controls that are effective.
       7.  Communication.  Land lines and cell phones will be useless.  Your city must have a system of communications that is satellite based or cell phones with "walkie talkie" capability.  All governmental agencies within your jurisdiction must share this technology - your fire must be able to talk to your police and your police must be able to talk to the sheriff departments.  All must be able to talk to the public works departments.

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KIRF's Hurricane Katrina Relief Concert Fund Raiser
October 1, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Relief benefit posterOur Hurricane Katrina fundraiser on October 1st was a real success! Please extend our gratitude by supporting the businesses and local musical artists who contributed to the event.

Donors of Raffle Prizes & Silent Auction Items:
A Good Thai Peruvian Rest.
Bagel Rock Coffee
Cafe Bariloche
Camarillo Bicycle Co.
Celtic Carma
Dargans Irish Pub & Rest.
Five Points Skate/Snowboards
Giant Bicycle USA
Great Pacific Iron Works
Kharmann Ghia Parts & Restoration
LA Fitness -Ventura
Latté 101 Coffee Co.
Mac Talk 2 -Ventura
Natalie's Eclectibles
Noah’s Bagels -Ventura
Open Air Bicycles
Parts Unknown -Ventura
Patagonia, Inc.
Pierpont Racquet Club
Pin-Ups Hair Design
Play It Again Sports -Ventura
Quiznos Sub -Main St., Ventura
Robeks Fruit Smoothies -Mantalvo Square, Ventura
Seth’s Games and Anime
Starbuck’s Coffee -Harbor Blvd., Ventura
Taqueria Tepatitlan
VC Life & Style Magazine
Water Girl USA, Inc.

Donors of Food, Beverages & Supplies:

Anacapa Bread Co.
New Belgium Brewing Co.
California Pizza Kitchen
Genjitsu Dojo
Haffner, Haffner & Kirwin
Hot Wood Mesquite
Isabelle Valencia
It’s In the Sauce BBQ
Jeannie Knowles

Mark & Angela Kirwin
Pierpont Racquet Club
Smart'N'Final - Ventura
Susan Rockett
Tipp’s Thai Cuisine
Trader Joe’s -Ventura
Ventura Wine Co.
Will Rogers Elementary School
Vons -Borchard, Ventura

Performing Artists:
Jani Baldwin
Lilly Water
Sus Corez
Baby Doll
and many wonderful Roots & Shoots youth volunteers!

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  How do we love? Not in big things but in small things, with great love.

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Holiday Card Exchange among 300 students in three schools in Ventura, California and one elementary school in Picayune, Mississippi.

Living supplies purchased at a local hardware store and WalMart were delivered to over a dozen families in need through an informal aid network of a small business owner/alderman, several non-profit volunteers & several teachers and school district administrators) in Hattiesburg and Picayune, MS.

Winter clothing donated by Patagonia were delivered to hurricane displaced families with the help of a local high school teacher in Hattiesburg, MS.

Living supplies purchased at WalMart were delivered to over a dozen families in need with the assistance of several non-profit volunteers & several teachers and school district administrators) in Picayune, MS.

New school backpacks and sports equipment were given to hurricane displaced children with local school district help.

Several homeless families were introduced to local superintendent of schools with KIRF's involvment and ended up getting temporary shelter of FEMA trailers after camping outside for two months after Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes.