Riverside County helps with Katrina

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By Andrea Grout

By Andrea Grout

Recently, Hurricane Katrina caused the levee system in New Orleans to collapse. This storm surge led to the rapid flooding of most of New Orleans, a large part of land which lies below sea level. With the Red Cross and FEMA taking action in aiding the victims of Hurricane Katrina, Riverside County was not far behind.

More than 70 of Riverside County Rescuers arrived in Dallas on Aug. 31 trying to make their way to New Orleans to assist the thousands of innocent people who lost their homes, food and clothing in the hurricane.

However, Riverside County Rescuers were held in Dallas for one week before FEMA approved them to continue to New Orleans.

Riverside County is not only sending rescuers to New Orleans to aid. The county is also going beyond to ensure that the evacuees are assisted as much as possible.

“Riverside County is the first county in the state to open a one stop shop” for the evacuees that have traveled from New Orleans in the possibility of finding hope and help, said Emergency Services Coordinator of the local fire department Ernest Calderon.

The Local Assistance Center is a partnership between the Riverside County Fire Department Emergency Center, the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, county schools, the DMV, Mental Health, Public Health, RTA and other associations in anticipation to help evacuees of Katrina as much as possible.

Since Sept. 9 many evacuees have arrived in the Riverside County area.

“Volunteers have already registered 600 plus people from New Orleans,” Calderon said.

The one stop center that the county has organized will allow evacuees to go through a series of stations in order to get the proper care to get back on track. Local Assistance Center. will allow Riverside County to provide the evacuees with housing, food vouchers, bus passes, identification cards, job placement and medication. In addition, the center. provides lunch and dinner daily, a child play area and a WIC program for mothers in need to care for their babies. One of the volunteer staffers at the center., Lt. Joe De Armond, said “most of the people who arrive here are under emotional distress and this facility was built to help the people as much as possible” considering that the evacuees have traveled a great distance from their home and life. Not only does the county have the L.A.C. aiding evacuees, but the local school districts are partaking in the relief as well.

The school districts are ready and willing to make the transition as easy as possible for families as they trickle in from New Orleans.

“Twenty students have registered so far” and the number of expected enrollments “is very fluid and can range from 25 students to a couple hundred,” said Moreno Valley Unified School District Public Information Scott Johnson.

Schools from the Riverside district and the Moreno Valley district are also collecting funds and clothing to donate to the families who have lost everything in Katrina, said Johnson.

Likewise, RCC’s Graphix Club and ASRCC are involved in the local relief effort by making donations to the Red Cross.

Riverside County officials and school districts are working together to aid those whose lives have been drastically altered and distraught by the hurricane.

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