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You are here: Home » The Marketing Diary » Various Marketing Ramblings » A Personal Story of Helping Hurricane Victims

November 28, 2005

A Personal Story of Helping Hurricane Victims

Today, we're not talking about marketing.

Every now and again you read a story of some hero going that extra mile to help those in need. But for the most part, mainstream media are really lousy at conveying actual emotion, most times failing to capture the soul of the person they're writing about.

One of my business partners, Karen M. Wilson, who was instrumental in helping me launch the RSS e-book on the US market, is one of the people you don't get to read much about in the mainstream press.

But her story of how she did her part to help hurricane victims certainly deserves to be heard, perhaps even more so then most stories you can read about in your newspaper.

When she started putting pen to paper on her experiences, she never intended this to be published, simply wanting to share something with her friends. I feel honored she gave me her permission to reprint what she sent us ...

This is her story ...

"Regarding my trip . Yes, I am back, safe and sound. It was an amazing and heartbreaking experience. I've never worked so hard for no money and been so fulfilled in my life. :-)

They sent me to Houston and then to a huge shelter in Beaumont, TX along with 500+ other volunteers w/FEMA, Salvation Army, National Guard and on and on. Beaumont and the surrounding areas had only 40% of their power back when I arrived and it was another week before that rose to about 65-70%. From Beaumont, we left every day in 30+ "teams" that went out to the surrounding communities of Beaumont, Buna, Woodville, Lumberton, Port Arthur, Sabine Pass (where the eye of Rita went over), Holly Beach (in LA), Saratoga, Winnie, Sour Lake, etc. and made sure people had food, water, diapers, and anything else we could give them along with getting them signed up for the Red Cross debit card and Health Services (Rx and mental health counseling for those that needed it).

I saw everything from alligators in the road, to huge trees that had completely crushed homes, to children still living in homes that were covered in mold, to families living in tents next to the footprint of what used to be their home. Banks were damaged and not functioning so even those that had money could not access it.

Many of the businesses that were fortunate enough to have minor damage still were not open fully because their staff had been displaced from the hurricane. Some restaurants and grocery stores were offering $15+/hr just to attract the few workers that were available. Every agency, including FEMA (grin), was doing everything humanly possible to help these people but the scope of the disaster is sooooo large that it just isn't possible to reach people fast enough. There had been in excess of 13,000 volunteers in that area over the past 30 days (starting with Katrina) before I had arrived and people were still having to line up at food banks we set up just to get food for their family for a few days at a time.

It's definitely a labor of love to go there, but it changed me in ways I can't even describe. I honestly could have chucked everything and just stayed, and they asked me to, but I just couldn't take another 3 weeks off.

Was it frustrating at times? You bet. It was hard to know that we, as volunteers, were being fed and sheltered when there were so many out there in need, but you have to make sure the people helping stay healthy so they can help those in need. Sleeping on a cot with a room full of strangers is a bit odd, as is trying to shower in a trailer and drying off with paper towels. :-)

Saddest of all, however, and unbeknownst to us, we were right in the heart of KKK-ville in Jasper County. With the bomb threat on our shelter, the KKK actually made it too dangerous for us to stay in that particular area, so they had to move us from the huge shelter in Beaumont and pull out on all the home visits in the area just because of a handful of backward, but potentially dangerous, people. Consequently, I then lived in an old, abandoned hospital in Baytown for the remainder of my time there and did phone visits instead. Of course, this meant that many, many people did not receive what they needed from us - but you do what you can with what you're given.

I would do it again in a heartbeat and plan to do it again next hurricane season. I am getting even more training between now and then and hope to be able to serve on the International Team when I retire.

I will never forget the spirit of the people in Texas helping us to help them. It was a very bonding experience. The added bonus was having the honor of meeting and working with hundreds of people (volunteers) who had given up their vacations and left jobs and families to come to the area and give of their time and skills to assist those in need.

My heart goes out to all those who are affected by adverse circumstances, for while I have a home and livelihood to return to, many of them will spend many months and years healing and rebuilding.

Karen M Wilson"

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