St. Mary’s County Hurricane Relief Fund Deserves Honor

It’s not a matter of IF, but WHEN a storm of the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina strikes again and the next time, it might be us. What is obvious to every American is that the government’s response at all levels virtually completely broke down.

The government broke down, but we as citizens of the greatest country in the world, did not. The outpouring of support for the victims of both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Southern Maryland and throughout the rest of the United States showed what a generous spirit Americans share.

Today, I want to give praise to a group of people from St. Mary’s County who did something extraordinarily charitable for people they didn’t even know until a few months ago.

I’m referring to The St. Mary’s County Hurricane Relief Fund. This magnificent group adopted the town of D’Iberville, Mississippi after hearing of an elderly couple who left there after suffering terrible devastation to stay with family in Great Mills.

D’Iberville is a town of 9,000 residents. All but 2,000 lost their homes. My constituents including, Joe St. Clair, Don Cropp and Tom Jarboe headed the effort and were helped by Father John Ball of Trinity Episcopal Church which is located in our great state’s first capital of St. Mary’s City. Trinity Episcopal handled the processing of the money that was donated. One hundred percent of all donations went to the cause.

The Fund believes the tremendous success of this effort was a result of direct human interaction between St. Mary’s and D’Iberville residents. Mr. St. Clair said it “is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

The St. Mary’s Hurricane Relief Fund had four missions. They included:

1. Operation Education—The Fund began by delivering 600 backpacks loaded with school supplies donated by St. Mary’s County residents. These were brought by drivers who even paid for their own gas. Also, Fund organizers met with the townspeople to prioritize their needs.

2. Operation Little Warriors—The Fund provided for 90 families who were hardest hit by the disaster, left with nothing and living in tents. Local schools assisted in bringing supplies directly to families.

3. Operation Thanksgiving Day Relief—The Fund sent a medical team of two doctors, a nurse and a paramedic (and got them MS State licensure approval) for a three-week clinic in a gutted-out grocery store. These care givers saw more than 100 patients a day. They also brought a crash cart that was donated by St. Mary’s Hospital as well as other much-needed supplies

4. Operation Mississippi Christmas - The Fund adopted all school children. Those in Pre-K through 6th grade received presents from wish lists they, themselves, generated. For children in grades 7-12, Wal-Mart gift cards of $40 each were given. SMARTCO also sent 35 complete computer systems. Our Amish community helped out as well by sending many of their famous hand-made quilts.

This group is not finished with their work. Their intention is to be ready to help again during future natural disasters wherever help is needed.

To honor the Fund’s graciousness, I wrote to Senate President Mike Miller on December 14 asking him to invite this group’s representatives on to the Senate floor during the opening weeks of the 2006 General Assembly Session. This is the least we can do to honor the great works done by so many generous people from the Mother County. I will also be asking Senator Miller to allow Father Ball to offer the opening prayer which is a tradition before we start each day of the 90-day Session.

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