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Sumter County establishes Operation Katrina Homecare

YORK-A new group has surfaced that is geared toward making evacuees feel as welcome in Sumter as they would in their own hometowns. The group, which is called Operation Katrina Homecare, began shortly after the storm made landfall.

Cynthia Brooks, who is one of many who help run the group, said they have already helped several people.

“Operation Katrina Homecare was a project that we started in Sumter County,” Brooks said. “The operation was to raise money and help Katrina victims from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama and our own town.”

Brooks said many of these people will be unable to return to their homes anytime soon. She said while they are here they wanted to do their best to make them feel welcome.

“Our families and friends are housing Katrina victims in their homes for days, weeks, months and possibly years,” Brooks said. “They need our support. People in this small community are trying to show a big love. We are working with our Emergency Management Director.”

EMA Director Margaret Bishop was very busy when the storm came through with various duties. Brooks said because of this, they decided to step in. She said they were amazed at the number of people who made their way to Sumter County.

“Mrs. Bishop was so swamped with the water and other issues that a group of us came to her and asked her if she was aware of how many people there were in Sumter County that had migrated to Sumter County to live with family,” Brooks said.

“There were several people that had migrated from the Gulf Coast. We started counting them and there were more and more.”

Brooks said Bishop told her to get a plan together, present it and get to work. Once the plan was in place Bishop gave them all the contacts they would need.

“She connected us with Red Cross, she connected us with FEMA and we came here to the commission today to let you know what we were doing,” Brooks said. “We are helping them get furniture and all sorts of items. We are getting donations from Coca Cola and all sorts of places. We are going strictly on donations.”

Tina Bender, who evacuated from Mississippi, said she has seen first hand the good work they can do.

“When I went and got my niece and her children and brought them back they gave them clothes, they gave them everything,” Bender said. “They had nothing. They have helped them out with housing and everything else. They have given them mattresses and everything they needed. They have really been there for several people at Elizabeth Hall. They are really doing a wonderful thing down there.”

Commission Chairman Isaac Bonner said he has been very impressed with the group.

“I think the group is doing a great job,” Bonner said. “They have shown that we have lots of good people in this area. You have to reach out and do what you can for people in need.”

Bonner also said the county will soon be able to provide more assistance. Bonner said Sumter County had been approved for 40 jobs through FEMA and ADECCA. He said they would take applications on Oct. 4 and 5 at the Commission Chambers.

Brooks said they just wanted to continue to let evacuees know they were welcome.

“We want to let them migrate into the community,” Brooks said. “We want them to feel like they are wanted. For the ones who want to stay, we don’t want to feel like we are not doing something to help them.”