Relief efforts continue in Riverdale

By Johnny Jackson

Thursday, a gracious Shuranda Taylor spoke with volunteer Marion Franksmith outside the Riverdale Fire Services Training Room about just how much Hurricane Katrina has affected her.

The small training room was converted into a relief supplies bank filled with clothes and toiletries in one of several manners the city of Riverdale hopes to support the hurricane relief effort.

Last week, Riverdale City Manager Iris Jessie spearheaded this effort to help victims of the natural disaster asking that the city team up with the Riverdale fire and police departments.

Councilwoman Michelle Bruce estimated that hundreds have already donated relief supplies to the city's relief supplies bank located at 782 Orange St. in Riverdale near the Riverdale City Hall.

Bruce said she worked 10-hour days sorting supplies and campaigning door-to-door with others in a mission "trying to help our brothers and sisters.

"They've been trickling in by word of mouth," she said about those who have donated thus far. "We've all been working since last week, around the clock."

Bruce said the mission needs donated racks and hangers to hang a wealth of clothes donated by people, and notably, by Wal-Mart in Riverdale.

According to store manager Louis Donroa, Wal-Mart of Riverdale has honored more than $900 in gift cards and donated about $300 in clothes, diapers, and hand sanitizer for the city.

"It seemed like the right thing to do," he said.

Taylor will return to the relief supplies bank Saturday, when she expects to have her second cousin Terri Taylor in from Leadville, La.

"They're trying to keep it together," Taylor said about her cousin and her 4-month-old child, who evacuated New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

Speaking to each on the phone at three on Thursday morning, the devastated two made plans to share Taylor's home in Riverdale.

"It was so horrible," Taylor said about the conversation. "They'll be coming this weekend to stay with me. I don't have a choice; this needs to be done. And if I have to get a second job to help, I will."

Taylor mentioned she had several family members and friends she has yet to locate from Louisiana. She said she registered online through the American Red Cross website to find those family members and friends but has gotten no response.

Her mother is not entirely safe either, she said. Living more than two hours away from the worst hit areas, she deals with disaster related crime like theft, violence, and robbery.

"We've seen the face of the victims and we know they are here," said Riverdale Police Chief Thetus Knox. "When you put a face on the victims, it's heart wrenching. This really hit close to home."

She said the images seen on television made the effort natural and appropriate.

"The larger picture--what people see on television is a reactive response. The city of Riverdale is taking a proactive approach. We've identified the problem and we're addressing it," said Riverdale Fire Chief Billy Hayes.

He spent last weekend in Biloxi, Miss., and described the scene none better than devastating.

Hayes asks that people help in the relief effort by attending the city's fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 10, running from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart where there will be local radio disc jockeys and refreshments on sale for the cause. Otherwise, visit the Riverdale City Hall to make cash, check, or material donations. Or volunteer.

Hayes is the main point of contact for the city's mission to relieve those affected by the disaster; reach him at (770) 966 - 1912 (333).