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Hurricane evacuee still feels blessed

GREENE COUNTY – She lost her dog and her husband, both of whom mean the world to her, but Yolanda Johnson, a New Orleans evacuee, is finding her way back to a normal life in Alabama.

Johnson and her family members, including her two children, mother, sister, brother-in-law, their three children, her brother, his girlfriend, their child, a cousin and two dogs evacuated to Boligee to stay with a family member August 28.

Johnson, 31, had spent most of her life in Louisiana when she moved to Boligee in November of 2004. She stayed in Alabama, working at the West Alabama Mental Health Center, until July when she made the decision to move back to New Orleans August 2.

“I started working in New Orleans August 10 and moved back to Alabama August 28. That Sunday Katrina came,” Johnson said.

She said she didn’t want to leave New Orleans and had told her sister they were going to evacuate by themselves.

“I had ironed my clothes for church that Sunday and everything. I was ready to go to church,” Johnson said. “But then they said category five so I said ‘When are we leaving?'”

Johnson said her husband left Louisiana with his mother before she did, but hasn’t heard from him since.

“I think he’s in Florida,” she said. “I registered on familylink.com, but it costs money to check it so I will have to register with the Red Cross.”

Her husband’s name is Troy Hall Sr. and he is from New Orleans.

Someone also stole her dog as Johnson and her family traveled from Boligee to Baton Rouge after they evacuated.

She has printed flyers announcing a reward for her Sheppard mix.

“She is like a human to me and I miss her,” Johnson said. “Her name is Maxine.”

Although Johnson has yet to return to survey the damage done to her home, she suspects her family lost everything.

“It should be completely under water. We will go back and look at it when they let us,” she said. “We lived close to the Six Flags and they said that was under water so I’m thinking our house was too.”

Johnson is grateful to everyone who has helped her in the family’s time of need.

“We are really grateful to Angela Means at the daycare in Eutaw. She keeps our kids for free,” Johnson said. “I have a whole new, free wardrobe that I got from the warehouse in Alexander City.”

Johnson has found a home in Tuscaloosa and plans to relocate there.

She said the children in the family understand the situation because her three-year-old nephew told them their house was “in the water.”

The family needs furniture and other items necessary to start their new life.

Although Johnson was temporarily hired at her job at the West Alabama Mental Health Center, she is looking for a permanent job.

“I have a master’s in social work from Southern University,” she said. “And my sister is looking for work too.”

To donate to the Johnson family, contact Yolanda Johnson at (504) 975-2164 or her sister, Latasha Johnson, at (504) 338-5731. If both contact fail, contact Pastor J.D. Webb at the Zion Friendship Baptist Church, where Johnson is a member, at (205) 372-2416.

“Even though all this has happened to us, I still feel blessed,” Johnson said. “Things could’ve been much worse.”