Red Bull, donuts and dedication fuel Hurricane Katrina relief effort
The destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina resonated with Rotary Club of Truckee members as they watched the devastating images on television some 2,000 miles away last year.
Kevin Murphy, Rotary immediate past president, said members knew they wanted to contribute to the disaster relief effort in a more involved way versus just asking who to make the check out to.
Murphy said the club found its answer in the city of Pass Christian, Miss., when he met with Pass Christian Rotary President Dr. D.H. Short. Short walked into his office wearing a pair of green scrubs and tennis shoes ” the only clothes he had after losing his home in the path of the hurricane.
“They lost all their phones. They lost everything,” Murphy said. “Pass Christian was flattened.”
Short said the city lost all its construction equipment, which included back-hoes and dump trucks, expecting the cleanup process to take two years, according to Murphy.
“That kind of stuck in my head,” Murphy said.
Murphy said he fought nay-sayers to keep his wild vision alive in order to raise enough money to buy Pass Christian a dump truck loaded with Douglas-fir lumber to represent Truckee’s contribution in the relief efforts in the south.
The building momentum from Murphy’s goal quickly came to a halt when the Rotary club lost support from other local organizations because of other obligations, he said.
At that point nine months had elapsed since the club began its relief effort in September 2005.
Luck would have it that Murphy met with Mike Ewers, owner of Lakeside Paving, who just happened to have a 1995 Caterpillar diesel dump truck he was willing to sell.
“We drove it and checked it out and it was sweet,” Murphy said.
By the end of June the club had raised a total of $21,600, with $15,000 going to the purchase of the truck, Murphy said.
The club had been successful in getting a vehicle, but had nothing else to give Pass Christian, so Murphy announced the need for building supplies to fellow Rotarians on Tuesday, June 13.
“Wednesday, there was no lumber. Thursday, there was no lumber,” Murphy said.
By Friday afternoon though, stacks of lumber were piled high to fill the 10-foot truck bed. Twenty boxes of cleaning supplies and dozens of children’s books were also donated by Rotarians, he said.
The next step was finding “someone crazy to drive this thing,” Murphy said.
Truckee Rotarian Bill Watters said he and his father, Jerry Watters from Reno, were up for the adventure. Watters said driving the truck across the country was “the easy part” of the whole mission.
Watters said he and his dad left Saturday afternoon, Father’s Day weekend, driving 42 hours non-stop.
“We drove basically the entire time,” Watters said.
Red Bull energy drinks and chocolate donuts rejuvenated the father and son as they continued on their mission, reconnecting with Short in Pass Christian Monday morning. Short gave them a tour of the area damage.
“It was eerie,” Watters said. “You’d look up in these trees and there’d be debris 25 feet in the air.”
Murphy saved a voice message from Short after Watters and his dad returned to California. He said it still makes him tear up every time he listens to Short’s message of thankfulness and how the Rotary gave the town new memories and hope to rebuild.
“If you believe hard enough in something you can make things happen,” Murphy said.
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