Family on Katrina-aid mission

A Lawa‘i woman and her son leave Kaua‘i today to help set up in Mississippi the first emergency shelters for children and families with special needs, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Linda Nuland-Ames, a loan officer at Millennium Mortgage in Lihu‘e, and her son, Ian Ross, 14, leave today for Toccopolo, Miss. (population 172), where one of several certified shelters for children and families with special needs will be located.

“We’re all moved to do something,” said Nuland-Ames, feeling urged to go and help in part because she is able to watch terrible suffering on TV with a roof over her head, while literally millions of people along the Gulf Coast have nothing.

“I have to” go and help, she said.

“At least for some, we’re going to get them a home. We’ll do what we can,” she said.

An estimated one million people are homeless, and she already has people rounding up special-needs individuals and families in the Houston Astrodome, where many of the New Orleans evacuees are being housed.

“We’re off and running,” with Nuland-Ames and her son leaving today, and the first families expected to arrive at shelters being established at a church retreat, Boy Scout camp, and one “bricks-and-mortar building,” in Toccopolo, she said.

From noon to 3 p.m. today, Monday, Sept. 5, Labor Day, people may drop off items like blankets, sheets, towels, and other items, at Millennium Mortgage, 3125 ‘Akahi St., Lihu‘e.

Boxes should be clearly addressed like this: Linda Nuland-Ames, c/o Peg Pickering, 2901 Highway 9 South, Pontotoc, MS 38863.

“Kaua‘i is again responding with aloha, but I have no way of getting the supplies to the camp in Mississippi,” Nuland-Ames said. “I urgently need an airline or freight company to step up to the plate and move the supplies as soon as possible.

“The first families are arriving as early as Tuesday afternoon,” she said.

Pickering, whose son has autism, is Nuland-Ames’ friend.

Nuland-Ames’ son has severe food allergies, and Nuland-Ames has experience in kitchens preparing special meals for those with special dietary restrictions.

About the nutrition needs of victims of Katrina, she said, “First they had no food. Now they have food that makes them sick.”

Through Pickering, Nuland-Ames has learned that many displaced special-education teachers and therapists are offering their services, and Mississippi state officials have already given official approval for the opening of the shelters.

People from across the country are coming to help, she added.

“We’re expecting a flood of people,” Nuland-Ames said. “I’m there with them,” she said, anticipating being gone for two to three weeks.

“Never underestimate the power of parents,” she said.

Members of the community of Pontotoc, where Pickering lives, have already pooled gasoline resources to send a truck to collect Nuland-Ames and Ross and the boxes of aid they’ll be bringing with them.

“None of us, I think, really comprehend the magnitude of this disaster,” said Nuland-Ames, who knows she is representing people on this island who have lived through one or two or more hurricanes.

“I’m carrying the hearts of Kaua‘i with me. I really understand that.”

For those thinking that Ross is going to get a bit of a vacation from school accompanying his mother on the trip, think again.

Kahili Adventist School officials, who have been helpful, will be sending Ross, a freshman, his homework assignments via the Internet, Nuland-Ames said.

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