Pearlington personalizes disaster area for the valley
October 4, 2005
For the past few days, Aspen Times readers have received an up-close and personal glimpse of life in Pearlington, Miss., a Gulf Coast community ravaged by Hurricane Katrina and then “adopted” by the communities of the Roaring Fork Valley as a place to focus relief efforts. For five days, reporter Scott Condon and photographer Paul Conrad sent powerful stories and images from Pearlington back to the Times, and we were able to put a face on a distant community with no prior connection to the valley.Perhaps the most important thing that we learned from the Pearlington coverage was that this “adoption” won’t be over any time soon. It’s a long-term commitment to people who literally have nothing left.It will take years to rebuild lives and property in Pearlington. It’s one thing to write a check to the Red Cross or send some clothes in a van load bound for the Gulf, but if we as a valley truly intend to “adopt” Pearlington, then we must look carefully at what Pearlington needs and respond in kind.The Aspen Times is planning two direct relief efforts: A gift of cooking appliances for newly homeless employees at The Sun-Herald in Biloxi, Miss., a newspaper that helped greatly with our coverage in the stricken region, and a monetary contribution to the church of a generous family that provided beds and showers to our fatigued team. Both gifts are direct responses to specific requests.Future gifts to Pearlington residents should be similarly specific. Relief coordinators have said clearly, “no more clothes.” But canned and nonperishable food is welcome. So are outdoor survival supplies, from stoves and fuel to tents, tarps and sleeping gear. Remember, many people’s homes were literally wiped off the foundations.Other items in demand are tools and cleaning implements – shovels, rakes, chain saws, mops, brooms, buckets and cleansers. Imagine clearing several inches of mud or several fallen trees from your living room, and then making the place habitable.Items were being collected at the former PartyLand store in the Red Brick Plaza in Carbondale, but the collection center is closed this week because there are adequate supplies on hand. Eventually, the Pearlington Project will open a “virtual warehouse.” Once it’s up and running, the way to donate will be to log on to http://www.carbondalegov.org, click on the Pearlington Project link and follow the instructions. Donations will limited to items that are specifically needed in Pearlington. The website will the place to find out exactly what is needed.Of course, such donations are useless if they don’t reach Pearlington. If you’d like to sponsor another “Red Ball Express” supply trip to Pearlington, then call Willard Clapper at 927-3502. Donations to support either the purchase or transportation of supplies should be made to “Carbondale Fire/Katrina Relief Fund” and dropped off at the Carbondale fire house or Carbondale Town Hall.