Havre Daily News
Hi-Line residents are continuing to help victims recover from hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Robert Molitor and Russel Verploegen, who both live near Havre, will leave for Baton Rouge on Saturday in Verploegen's farm truck, pulling a trailer full of donated goods from Great Falls.
Verploegen said he wanted to help out, and this is one way he can.
"We don't have cash to give them, but we have trucks and time to donate," Molitor said.
The two men came up with the idea a week after Hurricane Katrina hit. They contacted a national office of the Salvation Army, which initially asked for money and later connected them with Bob Hermstad, coordinator for Katrina Aid Montana, sponsored by Calvary Chapel of Great Falls. The church has been collecting donations at a drop-off spot at the Westgate Mall in Great Falls for three weeks.
Hermstad said they have enough to "pretty well fill a 40-foot semi-trailer." The trailer was donated by Chuck Vaughn from Vaughn Truck Sales in Havre.
The load will consist of both new and used clothing, shoes, toys, personal care items, bedding and kitchen supplies.
Verploegen and Molitor will be driving the approximately 4,400-mile round-trip mission in about five or six days, Molitor said. They will drop the goods off at the Streams of Life Ministries in Baton Rouge and then return.
Verploegen said they might take a little time to sight see while on their adventure.
Hermstad said the Calvery Chapel has collected about $1,500 in cash donations for the road trip, which is nearly half of the total needed for fuel.
Hope on the Hi-Line, a local group formed to aid in hurricane relief, helped organize the trip and is also collecting money for fuel, food and insurance costs.
To donate, make a check out to Hope on the Hi-Line with "road trip" as a memo and take it to Hi-Line Christian Church, the Holiday Village Shopping Center's office or mail it to the mall at P.O. Box 1081, Havre, MT 59501.
Ed Hencz, Hope on the Hi-Line's newly named head of transportation, said donations are also needed to get more hurricane victims to the area. He said he is looking for any form of transportation that can help.
"I'd even take a horse right now," Hencz said.
The group got an offer from Big Sky Airlines to fly evacuees for free from any city they depart from. The problem is getting the victims to those cities, said group chair Julianne LaSmith. She said she is looking for people to donate cash, buy plane tickets on their credit cards or cash in their frequent flyer miles for the cause.
"Everything happened so fast with the first families, so we want to have everything already set up when we get more interested parties," LaSmith said.
Hope on the Hi-Line is meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. in front of Sears in the mall. LaSmith has a new connection down South, thanks to Hill County commissioner Mike Anderson and his daughter Candi, who are volunteering for the Red Cross in Morganza, La., a small town about 50 miles outside of Baton Rouge.
LaSmith has been talking with the director of the shelter where the Andersons are serving as medical staffers and has sent Hope on the Hi-line applications for those who may want to relocate to the area.
In an email Monday, Anderson said he and his daughter are telling everyone in the shelter that there is help and housing available, but when people find out the location, they are unsure of how they would handle the Hi-Line's temperatures.
"We are still looking for that family with the sense of humor," Anderson wrote.
A family who relocated from Louisiana to Chinook last week are adjusting to life on the Hi-Line. Melissa Richardson starts work today at a local grocery store. Her daughter, Rose, started high school in Chinook on Monday.
Rose had trouble getting into the school band, but that has been all worked out. Her mother says Rose loves the school and is going to learn bass guitar as well as continue playing percussion. Havre Middle School donated school supplies for Rose.
Richardson said she is excited about the chance of seeing snow.
"We'll be going crazy. They'll say 'There's those crazy people from Louisiana,'" she said.
Richardson said everybody has been really great and "we're the most popular people on the block."
She said she loves it here and called everyone back home to let them know. Richardson said she told her family, "Y'all need to relocate here because I'm not coming back down there."