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Demopolis lends a hand to Katrina-beaten city

Rick Couch / News Editor

For the past month, the Demopolis City Council has discussed the possibility of adopting Waveland, Miss. as a “sister city.”

Waveland, which is similar in population to Demopolis, was almost completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina last fall.

This week, Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said, the city decided to help Waveland in their recovery efforts

“The city has decided to adopt the city of Waveland and the department heads are going down there,” Williamson said. “I talked with their mayor long ago and we agreed to go Feb. 8.”

The partnership with Waveland will not include a monetary donation, Williamson said. The trip is designed to give department heads a feel for the needs of Waveland to get back on its feet.

“We are not going to officially adopt them, but we have been given the go-ahead to go down there and do a needs assessment,” Williamson said. “When we come back, each department head will make a report and then we will do a resolution.”

Twelve department heads from Demopolis will head down to their sister city the second week of February, Williamson said. She said the main goal is to tour the city, make a list and send items that can be put to use.

“Each department head will meet with the department head for the city of Waveland,” Williamson said. “Then, we will do a needs assessment to figure out exactly what they need. We don’t want to send them things they might need.”

The partnership, Williamson said, will be based strictly on donations. The city has no intention of using their own funds to rebuild Waveland.

“The city can’t just take taxpayer money and hand it over to another municipality,” Williamson said. “What we can do is go down there, gather information and let people know what they need. Maybe someone can donate some items, but we can’t just take money and give it to another municipality.”

Their main role, Williamson said, will be an advisory board.

Though the effort to help Waveland is young, it already has a major contribution from within the city. The Demopolis Ministerial Association plans to make the first big donation in the form of a 15-passenger van.

The Rev. Aaron Raulerson, who is a pastor of Trinity Episcopal Church and a member of he Ministerial Association, said the group felt this was an excellent way for them to aid the city’s effort.

“The Ministerial Association voted on it and felt it was an excellent use of our funding,” Raulerson said. “We are now in the process of making plans to deliver it.”

The donation will be used to transport elderly citizens to doctor appointments, the hospital or to pick up prescriptions. The van previously used by Waveland was completely destroyed during the hurricane.

After a previous meeting with Williamson, Raulerson said, the association felt this was a great way to help its fellow man.

“The mayor hosted us for lunch and we discussed some of Waveland’s special needs,” Raulerson said. “We felt this was a need we could address and decided to go ahead.”

By getting involved, Raulerson said, they hope to extend the role of “sister city” beyond each city’s mayor and council.

“We want our role in being a sister city to go beyond the municipality,” Raulerson said. “We want to be a partner on the church level as well and hopefully on a personal level.”