The supplies are appreciated, but more are needed, a state official said.
By WILLIAM D. LEWIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
TRUCKLOADS OF RELIEF SUPPLIES DONATED by Mahoning Valley residents to Hurricane Katrina victims are arriving in Louisiana and getting to the people who need them, largely thanks to volunteers.
"Since Hurricane Katrina struck, no assistance by the federal government has been offered to the New Iberia area. Everything is being done by volunteers," said Bo Boudreaux, deputy director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for Iberia Parish.
Iberia and St. Landry parishes, which are similar to counties in Ohio, are west of New Orleans, and were mostly undamaged by the force of Hurricane Katrina. However, an influx of evacuees from in and around New Orleans has made relief supplies from Ohio appreciated, said Lee Cahinin, fire chief of Opelousas in nearby St. Landry Parish.
As of Saturday, about 15 truckloads of relief supplies -- mainly food, clothing and water collected in the Mahoning Valley -- have been delivered to the area.
The collection of supplies in the Mahoning Valley has been coordinated by the B.J. Alan Company of Youngstown. Falcon Transport of Austintown has provided trucks to move the supplies to Louisiana.
Church as distribution center
In Iberia Parish in the town of New Iberia, the Interfaith Fellowship Church serves as a depository and distribution center for relief supplies. The Rev. Zack Mitchell of Interfaith Fellowship was busy Saturday supervising the unloading of supplies.
Boy Scouts and other community volunteers assisted. The Rev. Mr. Mitchell said about 2,000 evacuees have come to Iberia Parish, and many come to his site for food and clothing. He expects the need to go on for three to six more months.
In St. Landry Parish, a closed Wal-Mart store serves as a location for the St. Landry Katrina Distribution Center. Cahinin says that more than 4,500 evacuee families have come to his parish since Hurricane Katrina struck, and many have come to the facility to get clothes and food.
Near the entrance to the center are several posters bearing the signatures of people from the Mahoning Valley who donated supplies.
At the Interfaith Fellowship Church site Vernon Sprawls, his wife, Sheron, and 4-year-old grandson, Jake Boorows, were having breakfast and getting some food supplies Saturday. They are from Kenner, La., about 10 miles from New Orleans. They said their house was badly damaged by the storm. The family stayed in hotels until they ran out of money and are staying at a relative's campgrounds in Iberia Parish.
Sheron Sprawls said, "It's absolutely fantastic that people from Ohio were so generous."
Also at Interfaith was the Rev. Anthony Talavera, who operated a wedding chapel in the French Quarter of New Orleans. He borrowed a car and got his family out of town before Katrina hit, but his home was badly damaged and his family is staying with friends in Lafayette, La.
"After a life of helping people, it is very humbling to be on the receiving end," he said.
However, the need for assistance continues. As Iberia Parish's Boudreaux put it, "Thanks to the people of Ohio for helping out, and please keep it coming."