Work still needs to be done in Pearlington
Days after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast region in August 2005, relief aid and donations came pouring in. The abundance of altruism rivaled the wake of 9-11: People felt a sense of urgency to provide aid.The sentiment in the Roaring Fork Valley was no different. Numerous fund drives were held for the storm-struck region stretching from southeastern Louisiana to the Alabama Gulf Coast. While the romantic and culturally rich New Orleans grabbed most of the headlines following Katrina, the plight of other cities and communities was equally as dire, yet hardly as well publicized. Some citizens of the Roaring Fork Valley realized that truth, and picked the unincorporated, obscure town of Pearlington, Miss., for the channeling of their relief efforts.This humble community that once had a population of 1,800 has managed, albeit slowly, to return to its normal way of life – about 1,000 people live there now. Much of Pearlington’s recovery can be attributed to Tom Dalessandri, a former Garfield County Sheriff who has headed Pearlington Project: Mountains to Mississippi.Also providing aid have been members of the Carbondale fire department and other governments in the valley. The project also has reeled in $300,000 in contributions, ranging from cash to grants to materials. Just this week, 19 students from Aspen High School have been volunteering their time to help rebuild homes that were destroyed by Katrina. Indeed, Project Pearlington has been a success. But there’s also the reality that interest in this area has waned, and naturally so. The havoc wreaked by Katrina no longer is in the spotlight like it once was, especially in today’s multi-media news cycle.And now, Dalessandri finds himself in the unenviable position of trying to raise even more money. The coffers are running dry and volunteers aren’t as many as they once were.Yet nearly 18 months later, after one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history, the need to rebuild Pearlington persists. Dalessandri’s short-term goal is to raise $75,000 to keep the rebuilding effort alive through January.Those members of the Roaring Fork Valley who continue to donate their time and money should be saluted for their efforts. And with continued donations to the cause, they can finish what they started. To learn more about the Pearlington Project or to make a donation, visit http://www.pearlingtonproject.com.
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