Districts hit by Hurricane Ike seek help
Hugh Summers (right), District 5910 disaster preparedness chair, hands a check to Red Cross Chair Bob Snow, of the Rotary Club of Palestine, Texas, USA, to help cover the cost of sheltering 475 people after Hurricane Ike swept through Texas. Photo courtesy of Summers.
Below; flood waters surround a house near Houma, Louisiana, USA. Photo courtesy of PDG Billy Foster/District 6200.
At 72 years old, Rotarian Fred Sandberg was less inclined to ride out the aftermath of Hurricane Ike than he might have been in his younger days.
"Roughing it isn't as much fun now as it was when I was a cub scout," says Sandberg, a resident of Santa Fe, Texas, USA, and governor-elect of District 5910.
So when he received an invitation from Past District Governor Hugh Summers to stay at his home 240 miles north of the hurricane-stricken Texas coastline, he jumped at it.
Sandberg was one of many Texas Rotarians who found shelter in the homes of other Rotarians, either before or immediately after Ike hit. District 5910's Web site included a list of Rotarians willing to provide shelter for other Rotarians.
District 5890 (Texas) created a Safe Harbor program on their Web site serving the same purpose, where district Rotarians offered up spare bedrooms, dens, or floor space to their fellow Rotarians fleeing the storm. District Governor-elect Ed Charlesworth of Houston was one of the first to sign up his home as a safe harbor.
"A couple days before Ike hit, I said let's get this up on the Web site," Charlesworth recalls. "Within 10 minutes, we got our first call asking if the offer was still good. We said, 'Absolutely, come on down.'"
Charlesworth ended up hosting three Rotarians he knew from his district travels. Three others were scheduled to stay with him as well, but they decided to seek refuge further inland. Charlesworth, who lives on the north side of Houston -- about 60 miles from the coast -- lost five trees, including one that fell on his roof.
"The neat thing is how Rotarians pooled together," Charlesworth says. "While we were hosting, everyone pitched in. It's a very good feeling being here and seeing how people are pulling together."
The storm has left many in need. District 5910 includes the counties of Galveston, Jefferson, and Orange -- all declared disaster areas -- and is home to 18 of its 42 clubs.
District Governor Roger McCabe says the district will use its donor advised fund to channel money to those who can put it to good use. Summers gave the Red Cross a check for US$5,000 on 18 September to help with the housing of displaced people.
Worse than Rita
Meanwhile, in southern Louisiana, Ike made the situation worse for Rotarians still mopping up after Hurricane Gustav.
Karin Viator, general secretary for District 6200 (Louisiana), says Grand Isle, off the coast of Louisiana, won't have electricity until mid October. Levees were breeched and homes flooded in Houma, Louisiana. Delcambre and Erath are swamped after Ike poured more water onto already-saturated ground.
"This water was worse than Hurricane Rita [in 2005]," Viator says. "We need cleaning supplies like bleach, buckets, mops, etc., for people to begin cleaning their homes. When you have lunch today, look at the ice in your glass. That’s a luxury in some areas of south Louisiana today."
District 6200 has a hurricane relief fund set up through its Web site for those who want to help.