Local groups plan efforts to help hurricane victims

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

The residents of Eastern New Mexico are responding to pleas for help from the south, in the wake of demolished neighborhoods in a horrified New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina hit states along the Gulf Coast earlier this week.
Spearheading relief efforts are unlikely team-ups of professionals such as New Mexico sheriffs and dairy farmers.

“It’s strange that I am involved in this,” said Curry County Sheriff Roger Hatcher.

After northern New Mexico colleague recruited his help, the sheriff is ready to personally deliver two truckloads of games, clothes, and stuffed animals to Baker, La., 80 miles from hurricane-torn New Orleans. The town of less than 14,000 is opening its arms to 1,500 homeless children.
“(Relief coordinators) said they really need something to help keep the kids occupied,” said Hatcher, who will collect items from drop-off points at the North Plains Mall as well as at Roosevelt and Friona general hospitals until Wednesday. After he collects the donations, he said, he will be Louisiana-bound.

Michelle Heavyside is the president of a fledgling non-profit charity organization, the United Dairy Women’s Association. Its 34 members, she said, are scattered across West Texas and eastern New Mexico.

The Portales resident formed a relationship with officials at local children’s home through her work with UDWA. She asked if they could house some of the hurricane’s youngest victims.

Portales Baptist Children’s Home administrator Geraldine Dooley liked the idea.

“We all need to pitch in. We are all Americans. It could happen to us, maybe not a hurricane, but other needs. (PBCH) reaches out to people in need, so this is just an outreaching hand of what we already do,” Dooley said.
The administrator said she called children’s homes in northern Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to let the administrators there know that the Portales home will open its doors to about 35 children.

Dooley said those she spoke with were grateful for the offer, but uncertain if overcrowding would actually force them to send children out of state.

Heavyside said she won’t stop her efforts with the children’s home and plans to donate dairy products to children who may seek asylum in New Mexico.

The Dairy Farmers of America will donate dairy products with a long shelf life — such as powdered milk and cheese — to hurricane victims, said Walter Bradley, director of government and industry relations for the Southwest Area of Dairy Farmers of America. The milk cooperative, Bradley said, is still in the organization stage of relief efforts.

“What we do know is that we need to help these people who have no water or electricity,” Bradley said.