Vol 5 No. 52 - September 14, 2005

New Island ‘HEART’ to offer aid

From left, Joe and Michelle White and their 4-year-old son, Riley, accept a check for $1,000 from Judy Giovanelli, of Duncan Real Estate. They will use the money to relocate to Gary, Indiana.

By Pat Copeland
sun staff writers

The Island community is opening its arms to victims of Hurricane Katrina with a newly-formed organization called HEART, or Hurricane Evacuees’ Assistance and Relocation Team.

School, business and community leaders came together in the office of Anna Maria Elementary School Guidance Counselor Cindi Harrison last week to determine how they could best help the victims.

"We have all been thinking of ways to try and help," Susan Timmons said. "We have such a wonderful community to support them."

"The needs are overwhelming, but this community has great resources," Pierrette Kelly, executive director of the Community Center, added.

Shannon Dell told the group about Joe and Michelle White and their 4-year-old son, Riley, and Michelle’s mother and roommate who fled to Bradenton from Ocean Springs, Miss. HEART members agreed to begin their efforts with this family group.

Kelly said the Community Center would coordinate donations. Dell suggested developing a database of people, their needs and what the community can offer. The staff at Anna Maria City Hall had offered to collect gift cards and personal items for the families.

Harrison said housing is critical, because many of the people have no homes or possessions, having escaped with only the clothes on their backs. Judy Giovanelli, of Duncan Real Estate, suggested asking the AMI Chamber of Commerce to contact real estate agents to notify property owners who might be willing to donate a house.

Kelly said Colleen O’Rourke, of the law firm of Barnes and Walker, has volunteered to help with legal issues that might arise regarding donating a house for someone’s use.

Jim Dunne, of the Anna Maria Island Rotary Club, said transportation is an issue for someone relocating on the Island and they must also fund medical care. He also said the board has agreed to provide help and assistance to Rotarians Patti and Win Bishop, who have offered to fund a family’s rent, utilities and other needs for a year.

Rosemarie Fisher, one of the Community Center’s therapists, is giving therapy to 17 displaced children through the Red Cross. Fisher will obtain names of families from the Red Cross and meet with them to assess their needs and select families for adoption. Families and their needs will be profiled in the Sun.

To donate to HEART, call the Center at 778-1908.

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