Islanders continue with Katrina relief effort

To help some of the thousands of people left homeless from Hurricane Katrina, compassionate Whidbey Island residents are offering relief in the form of housing, money, material goods and services.

One Greenbank resident Tiffany Hagood said “goodbye” to her husband of three weeks, Jerry Helm, a Greenbank firefighter who left Wednesday to volunteer his services through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

Helm and fellow firefighter Tyrell Blouin of Central Whidbey Fire Department volunteered to assist FEMA emergency personnel already on the scene in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Helm, 26, and Hagood were married Aug. 20 at Greenbank Farm.

“They volunteered right after the storm hit, but didn’t hear anything until Tuesday night,” Hagood said.

“They called and told him to be ready to leave by 8 a.m. the next day,” she said.

Hagood, a 1998 graduate of South Whidbey High School, met her husband in the fire department. Both are trained firefighters. Tiffany is volunteer for Central Whidbey and her husband is a paid, professional firefighter for the district.

“I understand his need to help, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Hagood said.

The new bride said she hasn’t been able to watch the news coming from that region since her husband left.

“With all the dangers they face from fire, snipers, snakes and disease, it has just been too hard to watch the news coverage. But I know he has the skills that are needed to help,” she said.

Helm was sent to Atlanta for two days of training.

“He was vaccinated for a multitude of diseases,” his wife said.

He was allowed to take one backpack loaded with camping gear including a sleeping bag, tent and water purifier.

Last summer her husband volunteered to help fight wildfires in easter Washington.

“This is much harder because they are so many unknowns he will be faced with,” she said.

Pair just married

Hagood is a Seahawks cheerleader and a real estate agent. On Thursday, the day after her husband left, she was in the Everett Social Security office to officially change her maiden name to her married name.

She says she expect her husband to be away from home for at least a month.

“I will just continue doing what I do, and worry a lot.”

“We were still putting away wedding presents and hadn’t even started writing our thank-you cards.

“I guess I will be doing those alone,” she said.

In addition to the two firefighters, five professionally trained Red Cross workers and Freeland Chaplain Rachel Taber-Hamilton are in the flood-devastated region.

Some other residents are offering to open up their homes to evacuees.

In Freeland, Dan Lenon and his family have offered to house six people from the storm-ravaged region at their Freeland home.

Lenon says he is in a position to help.

“If needed, I would give them enough time to find a home and work here” he said.

The Lenons, like many other Whidbey Island families, have offered housing to displaced families through the Web site

Most say they will welcome family pets as well.

“Anybody who has pets know how they become part of the family,” Lenon said.

“Of course I have some trepidation about strangers in our house. But we need to these people need our help now,” he said.

On the Web site, islanders have offered accommodations for at least 120 adults and children, and many are willing to house the victims’ pets. Some of these same people have made offers to assist families relocate to the Northwest.

St. Agustine’s Episcopal Church in Freeland is offering relief on several fronts. On Sunday, they raised $4,000 during church services.

Pastor leaves

Rachel Taber-Hamilton, wife of Pastor Nigel Taber Hamilton, was deployed this week through the Red Cross as a trauma chaplain.

She was expected to leave Montgomery, Ala. Friday for her assigned location. Parishioners are also collecting items for the evacuees.

“We adopted an Episcopal Church, also called St. Augustine’s in Baton Rouge. They are caring for evacuees that have moved into the region,” Nigel Taber-Hamilton said.

From Saturday through Tuesday the Freeland church is accepting donations of clean in-season clothes and underwear, particularly large size, men’s belts, flat shoes, flip flops and sandals, backpacks, tote bags, pens, pencils, paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and small toiletries. Other requested items include anti-bacterial lotions and wipes, baby supplies, over-the-counter pain killers and feminine hygiene products.

Drop off any of the items at St. Augustine’s, 5217 Honeymoon Bay Road in Freeland, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Put in a plastic bags rather than a boxes.

Several volunteers plan to drive the donated items down in an RV, then they plan to leave the vehicle behind to house other volunteers.

Right now volunteers are sleeping on the floor in the Baton Rouge church.

“Donating goods is a tangible way to help. The immediate official response was less than what we might have hoped. We figured adopting another church would be a neat thing to do because they are able to get necessary items right to the evacuees,” Taber-Hamilton said.

Another parishioner, Lynda Anderson along with Judith Martin of Island Fabric Etc. has gathered bedding, including 200 handmade quilts, blankets and sheets victims in shelters.

Anderson’s son, Cmdr. Nicholas Anderson, an F-18 pilot in the Navy Reserve, and several other pilots are expected to land at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station in mid-September to pick up any quilts that haven’t already been sent by mail.

Anderson said her son, who is stationed in Dallas, volunteered to help get the blankets to the victims.

Red Cross readies

Another parishioner, Ron Smullin, is a national trainer with the American Red Cross. He is currently training volunteers on the island for shelter work in the gulf region.

According to Smullin, there are 460 American Red Cross shelters which are expected to remain open for at least nine months.

“There are 47,000 volunteers in the Red Cross database and we are still 40,000 volunteers short,” Smullin said.

More help coming

Local fundraising activities are also ramping up.

On South Whidbey, a Glow Ball Golf Tournament will be held Saturday, Sept. 10 at Island Greens to raise money for the relief effort. All green fees have been donated by Dave Anderson, owner of Island Greens.

Sign-up sheets are available at Cozy’s Road House in Clinton, or call Staci Hull at 321-4269.

The per-person fee is a donation of $25 each, which will be added to funds already being raised through Whidbey Island Bank. Prizes will be drawn afterwards at Cozy’s Roadhouse. Island Greens is located on French Road.

Clinton Progressive Association in support of the American Red Cross and emergency relief for Hurricane Katrina Victims is sponsoring a benefit spaghetti dinner from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Sept. 17. Cost is $5 per adult, $3 for children under 10 years.

The Freeland business Curves for Women is accepting donations for the victims of the hurricane-damaged region.

Owners Gary and Diane Heavin will match donations up to $1,000. For donations under $75, checks should be written directly to “Curves,” donations over that figure should be written to “The Gary and Diane Haevin Community Fund.”

The tax deductible contributions will be accepted through Oct. 31. Curves is asking all of its franchises to participate.

The Russell Spakman family was so moved by watching the Katrina coverage on Friday evening that it made one thing very clear for the family: Proceeds from their pre-planned Yard Sale the following day would go toward Hurricane Katrina relief.

They generated slightly more than $250.

“This amount may grow to as much as $500 by donating it to friends whose companies have matching gift programs in place for Hurricane Katrina relief,” Sparkman said.

“I don’t have the exact amount, but at least $80 of the total was from people generously giving more than the ‘sticker price’ of whatever it was that they were purchasing,” he said.

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