‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.’
‘ … for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me … ‘
America usually responds to disasters and tragedies with generosity. The same has happened on an unprecedented scale following the horrendous destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina along the Gulf Coast. People from all walks of life sprang into action ‘ well, almost everyone. And they sprang into action to help people they didn’t know and would most likely never meet.
Two weeks ago, who would have dreamed that a hurricane on the Gulf of Mexico would affect almost every individual, in one way or another, as far north as Southern Indiana? But it happened, and people have dug deep and willingly sacrificed to help hurricane victims in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.
Last week we were happy to report just a few examples of people and institutions that simply dropped what they were doing and did what they could to help strangers suddenly made destitute by an historic hurricane. It was a rare opportunity to practice what we so often preach.
Harrison REMC and Cinergy linemen immediately volunteered to work in terrible conditions in what evacuees have called ‘a war zone.’ Catherine Turcotte and the YMCA started making plans to greet and house evacuees in an effort they called ‘Mission Hope.’ They have been flooded with offers of homes, cooked meals, transportation, even professional counseling. Blue River Services and Harrison County Community Services geared up to do what they do best: helping people who really need help. Individuals, like Ron and Sherry LeClair and Vicki Kitterman, made rooms available. So did the Baymont and Hampton inns, Holiday Inn Express, and Tyson Foods.
Larry and Olivia Orme were on the fair circuit in Minnesota or Wisconsin and volunteered to take their food stand south to help feed National Guardsmen. WOCC Radio’s Dick Brabandt put the word out that Bill Gerdon was collecting all kinds of supplies at his auto sales lot in Corydon. The response was immediate and ‘overwhelming,’ Gerdon said. David Kitterman at Community First Bank did the same thing. Within 48 hours, all the food, clothing, water and gas was combined, and Rick Stewart hauled it to the Twiggs family and a middle school in Biloxi. The Twiggs once lived here.
First Harrison Bank collected donations for the American Red Cross. Cecil Trobaugh headed to Louisville to meet evacuees at a Red Cross Center at the fairgrounds. The people at the Marengo Warehouse and Distribution Center called FEMA to see if they would need thousands of MREs, and pretty soon trucks were clogging S.R. 64 to pick up the precious cargo for people who were starving down south.
Wal-Mart Supercenter employees started collecting money from shoppers and raised $500 in three hours. A luncheon at the county courthouse raised $278. Churches and denominations took up collections ‘ St. Joseph Tri-Parish Catholic Community raised $7,000 at an unannounced special offering. School kids came home and asked their parents for money to ‘put in the jar’ in their classroom.
These are only a few cases of generosity and concern for our fellow man that we heard about; we could have found hundreds more. When the chips are down, we rise to the occasion. The recovery from Hurricane Katrina is going to take years and millions, no, billions, of dollars. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced, some permanently, and their lives have been changed forever. Their future will be difficult and uncertain, and it’s the same with the Gulf Coast states, institutions and communities. But we will get through it. When this sad chapter of American history is over, there will be people who will say, ‘Those people from Harrison County, Ind., they treated us real good.’