Evacuees find help, kindness in wake of storm

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 3, 2005

People from all over Greenville and Butler County want to help victims of Hurricane Katrina, but they're not exactly sure what to do or who to see.

"We've had calls from all over our area from people wanting to help, so we decided to get everyone on the same page," Greenville Mayor Dexter McLendon said. "The most important focus we need right now is going to be on how to help the people who are already in our town."

With the help of Lt. Anthony Barganier, Greenville Police Department community resource officer, and Greenville Fire Department Fire Chief Mike Phillips, a short term coordinated response plan has been put into effect for the city of Greenville to give citizens and evacuees information on how to give and to receive help. Departments and agencies from all over Butler County have put an information package together, and they can be picked up at the Greenville Area Chamber of Commerce, located on Depot Square.

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"First and foremost, everything will be handled through the Butler County Department of Human Resources, " McLendon said. "Anyone who wishes to donate food, clothes or money should contact DHR at 334-382-4400 and then dial 0. They will have on-call workers to answer the phones. "

Also, those who wish to volunteer services should call DHR and ask what to do.

"People have called to offer rooms in their homes, their rental houses and rental trailers for hurricane victims," Frieda Stevens, DHR director, said. "All of these offers will be channeled through DHR."

According to Stevens, Safe Harbor will offer slots for crisis counseling intervention. They can be reached at 334-382-8584.

Also, Mississippi's Medicare and Medicaid will be good in Alabama, along with EBT cards.

"People can use EBT cards at grocery stores here, and they will be good," Stevens said. "DHR can take those over the phone in this emergency situation."

Furthermore, Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, vouchers from Mississippi and Louisiana will be taken in Greenville. People should sign up for WIC vouchers at the Butler County Health Department and then be able to get baby formula for infants up to age five.

Another great need evacuees have is obtaining a way to communicate with relatives back in the Gulf Coast region.

"We will be collecting phone card donations so these people can call back home and locate relatives and get information," Phillips said.

Phone card donations may be taken to Greenville Fire Station #1, located on Cedar Street, and to Fire Station #2, located on the Greenville Bypass, as well as DHR. Hurricane victims need to pick up phone cards only at DHR.

With the prospect of homes and jobs lost, McLendon said that victims would need employment.

"We have 17 computers in our office, so people are welcome to come in and do job searches," Janice Grayson, Alabama State Employment Service manager, said.

According to Grayson, people filing for regular unemployment compensation claims should call 1-866-234-5382. It's a toll free call and is available Monday-Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. The state of Alabama will send that information electronically back to the state of origin as soon as that state is able to receive information. When calling, people should have social security numbers, driver's license information or Alabama ID #'s.

In addition, people who worked or lived in Baldwin, Mobile and Washington counties are eligible for benefits under the Disaster Unemployment Assistance program. The final date to file a claim in these counties is Sept. 29.

As of Friday, approximately 350 displaced people called Greenville home.