10/16/05 — Wayne relief effort nets $125,000

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Wayne relief effort nets $125,000

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on October 16, 2005 2:18 AM

Some took hammers to their piggy banks. Others gave a pint of blood. They did it on the Internet, at the office and in home-room. A few even walked to City Hall one September morning in the rain.

Wayne County residents came together in September and gave their time, money and prayers to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

In 1999, Red Cross volunteers stood outside churches and other safe havens in Goldsboro handing out food and other necessities to victims of the flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd.

"It wasn't that long ago when a group of young men fed me and my family," Wayne County resident Danny Long said.

Long, 57, remembers severe flood damage to his home and humbly accepting charity from nameless donors, he said.

Fast-forward to September 2005. Immediately following Hurricane Katrina, the Wayne County chapter of the Red Cross began collecting goods and blood here to give back to a region that helped Goldsboro neighborhoods during hard times, Director Chuck Waller said.

A couple hundred needle pricks, ATM withdrawals and signed checks later, Wayne County has donated more than $122,000 and 543 pints of blood to aid those on the Gulf Coast. Additionally, the organization has sent 62 trained volunteers to the affected region.

"I continue to be amazed by the generosity and kindness of people in Wayne County," Waller said. "They are special people and have shown that by opening their hearts and their checkbooks for people on the other side of the country."

The Red Cross isn't the only non-profit to see an outpouring of support from the community in the wake of Katrina.

The phones at the MERCI Center ring constantly these days. For the last month, volunteers in their warehouse have pieced together health kits, packed flood buckets, compiled layettes for babies and organized school supplies.

More than 1,700 men and women logged 5,256 hours in September at MERCI Center's warehouse. As a result of their work, 32,448 health kits, 609 layettes, 877 school kits and 3,110 flood buckets have been sent from Wayne County to the Gulf Coast.

Wayne County schools got involved as well, adding lessons in caring, love and support of humanity to their curriculums through fundraising efforts in September.

With some schools yet to report their totals, Wayne County Public Schools have recorded more than $11,000 in donations so far.

In addition to money, students, teachers and administrators have welcomed students relocated to Goldsboro from the Gulf Coast and have even adopted schools in the affected region.

Grantham School officials said they are sending $1,800 in donations to Hancock Middle School in Kiln, Miss. Meadow Lane Elementary adopted Folsom Elementary School, just north of New Orleans, and is planning projects during the upcoming months to support that school.

Grantham School principal Tim Harrell said jars were placed in classrooms and students were asked to give whatever they could to help students who were just like them on the Gulf Coast.

"We wanted to do something for another school," Harrell said. "Our students are very generous and gave out of the goodness of their hearts."

Local churches have also done their part. Numerous vigils, prayer sessions and sermons have been devoted to aiding those suffering in Gulf Coast communities, officials said.

First Christian Disciples of Christ pastor Fred Clark said more than $4,000 was raised through an offering called Week of Compassion. This program, in conjunction with the Church World Service, asked congregations to do all they could to assist Katrina victims, Clark said.

The Rev. Dennis Atwood of the First Baptist Church of Mount Olive said his team of volunteers took two trailers filled with donated supplies to the survivors of Hurricane Katrina in Texas.

A seven-member team loaded up the 8-by-5 and 8-by-10 trailers with boxes and headed for the coast.

"The way it worked out in our case was perfect," Atwood said. "We're all back now, and we have another group going in November."

Another trailer also went to the Gulf Coast from Goldsboro.

Deacon Jones Ford Lincoln Mercury and Houser Associates Real Estate Inc. sent 53-foot-long trailers to a staging center in Mississippi.

For three weeks, employees worked hard, loading water, canned goods, children's toys and personal hygiene items into the truck.

More than $1,800 was donated to defray the cost of gas from Deacon Jones, Toyota of Goldsboro, Houser as well as from private donors.

"The employees kind of all joined together," said Kim Bogue, controller with Deacon Jones. "They had been in a situation where they were needing help in Hurricane Floyd, and they were happy to help."

On a rainy September morning, city officials and staff gathered outside City Hall to collect goods for the youngest hurricane victims, young children and infants.

Their Bellies and Butts program brought in dozens of boxes of diapers, wipes, powder, baby food and formula to be sent south.

In addition to Bellies and Butts, the city staff held an in-house fundraiser and raised $800, City Manager Joe Huffman said.

"Our employees have big hearts and they have shown deep empathy for the victims of Katrina," Huffman said.

-- News-Argus staff writers Bonnie Edwards, Phyllis Moore and Turner Walston contributed to this story.