Local Samaritans deliver supplies deep in ‘the zone’
A load of relief supplies from the Roaring Fork Valley, driven by a Basalt businessman and one of his employees, was received with welcoming words in Bastrop, La., Sunday night.But after unloading a portion of the goods from the U-Haul they drove nonstop, Mike Fondo (not Hondo, as incorrectly reported in the Sept. 5 edition of The Aspen Times) and Travis Blair moved farther into “the zone,” the term Fondo used to describe the areas Hurricane Katrina devastated a little more than a week ago. Their destination was Baton Rouge, the state capital and a city now bursting at the seams with more than 100,000 refugees and rescue workers from storm-tossed New Orleans and other locales. Speaking to The Aspen Times by telephone Monday, Fondo said the relief center in Bastrop, at the far northern edge of the state near the Arkansas state line, needed a relatively small portion of the supplies collected in the valley last week.”We traded water for diapers, and they headed farther south,” said Jeannette Sciara, head of the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce and coordinator of the city’s and its churches’ relief efforts.Bastrop and the surrounding area escaped the worst of the storm, and Sciara noted that Katrina actually was welcomed before word got out of the destruction in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast.”We really got a blessing out of the storm, because we were in a drought,” she continued, explaining that hurricane had weakened enough by the time it got to Bastrop that “we just got some nice, cooling breezes and much-needed rain.”Now, however, Bastrop is dealing with a growing stream of refugees.”We’re doing OK,” she said. “It’s really more emotionally stressful than physical.” Referring to Fondo’s arrival, she said, “This is awesome.” Other relief deliveries are expected soon, but the town is currently relying on its own citizens for the majority of supplies, accommodations and other public assistance. So after unloading some baby food, diapers and other nonperishable goods, the pair got a good night’s sleep and climbed back in the truck cab and hit the road again.According to The Associated Press, “Though Baton Rouge avoided major storm damage, the influx of people is straining local resources. Firefighters are working 36-hour shifts to keep up with a huge increase in distress calls, mostly for people having trouble breathing or needing medication they left behind in New Orleans. Twice as many police officers as usual are on duty at all times, and they’re working 12 hours a day.”Fondo said he had no idea when he would be heading back to Colorado; his business, Mike Fondo Corn Blasting and Sand Blasting, is temporarily closed while he is on his mission of mercy.Fondo’s girlfriend, Holly Miely, talked with Fondo late Monday and that he had been through several towns and refugee encampments, including Lacombe and Slidell. Slidell reportedly received the brunt of Katrina, and Fondo reported he “could really see the devastation.”According to the Slidell website, the town has only spotty electrical power, and there is a boil order for tap water. Slidell’s mayor has ordered police to “use deadly force” in dealing with looters.Miely said Fondo and Blair expected to be in Baton Rouge late Monday, where they were to unload the last of their supplies and probably spend the night. They will then return the U-Haul to a dealer in Dallas and rent a car for the return trip to Colorado. She expects them back in the valley “probably Wednesday or Thursday.”John Colson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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