Havre Daily News
Hope on the Hi-Line has most of its needs met. Now all it needs is families to house.
The group working to help Hurricane Katrina victims relocate along the Hi-Line met Tuesday night at the Holiday Village Shopping Center. About 60 people attended.
Julianne LaSmith, who chairs the group along with Ken Washman and Karl Lorett, said the response from area residents has been overwhelming.
"I have been on the phone all but 10 minutes in the last few days," LaSmith said.
LaSmith, who is the marketing director at Holiday Village, said she needs to give out her co-chairs' phone numbers because the mall has been inundated with calls.
The group has not yet identified any families willing to move to the Hi-Line. Members are mostly relying on LaSmith's father, Ned Rasmussen, who lives in Round Rock, Texas, 15 miles north of Austin, to help the group recruit among families housed in the Austin Convention Center.
Rasmussen said in a telephone interview today that he is working with the missions director of First United Methodist Church in Round Rock. He said he is waiting to get all necessary paperwork from Hope on the Hi-Line so he can start going through the channels of finding interested families.
"Must have all the ducks in a row," Rasmussen said about the process.
LaSmith has answered pleas for help through www.craigslist.org, a classified ad Web site that has listings of hurricane victims in need. She said she is hoping for an inbox full of e-mails today.
Andrew Brekke, co-chair of the group's benefits/legal committee, is working with two lawyers on an application, a mission statement and disclaimers. The disclaimers will note that the area's population is mostly white and Native American, that the area has limited jobs and that winter temperatures can drop below 0 degrees.
People at the meeting voiced concerns. One person called out, "We're in the middle of nowhere. What if no one wants to come?"
"It's a completely different world," said Kandi Burrington, who moved from Alabama to the Hi-Line exactly 14 years ago. She said she didn't drive at all her first three winters after to moving to Chinook. Burrington, who now lives in Havre, said she still doesn't like to drive during the winter.
Gale Vaandering, head of transportation committee and maintenance supervisor at the mall, said he found willing donors of buses and gasoline and is now looking for airplanes, but can't do anything until theyknow where to go.
"The transportation is there; we need people to bring up," he said.
A sign-up sheet is being made for furniture donations. Vaandering said the mall has a basement to use for storage if needed.
"Gale is willing to give up his office. Just don't give him a couch or we'll never get any work out of him," LaSmith joked.
Darwin Zellmer, who is part of the housing committee, wanted to make sure people remember local charitable organizations when contributing, especially with the holidays coming up. Zellmer, who lives in Harlem, also wanted it known that the whole Hi-Line is involved in the Katrina project, not just Havre.
There is a stack of food, called the Tower of Hope, in the Holiday Village Shopping Center where people can donate nonperishable food items.
LaSmith said the group is working on gift certificates purchased by donors. These will be collected at Gary & Leo's IGA, Herberger's, Bi-Mart, Big R Stores, Sears and Kmart.
The group has an account at Bear Paw Credit Union. To donate, make checks out to Hope on the Hi-Line.