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Navy among first to help hurricane victims

Navy folks from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station were among the first to respond to hurricane Katrina survivors.

“Whatever we can do, we are doing,” said Kim Martin, public affairs officer at Whidbey.

About 14 crew members from The Islanders, VR-61, flew a DC-9 transport to Fort Worth, Texas, on Sept. 4. The aircraft was loaded with 1,250 pounds of donated supplies, Navy officials said.

The Islanders’ spouses and members of the Summit Park Bible Church had worked all weekend to gather and assemble care and comfort bags for folks evacuated along the Gulf Coast. Since the Islanders arrived, they’ve flown rescue missions to New Orleans, Mississippi and Florida.

In addition, four people from NAS Whidbey are at work on the ground at NAS Meridian in Mississippi, a FEMA staging area, Martin said.

The Whidbey rescue team is helping assess the needs of evacuees and assisting them take the next steps in their flight from the storm devastated region.

The population at Meridian has doubled in the last four days to 990 newcomers, and continues to rise, Martin said Thursday morning.

Here on Whidbey, the Marine Corps Relief Society has already helped a handful of people who fled the Gulf Coast, she said.

Some of the medical staff at Whidbey’s Naval Hospital are on alert and 17 security personnel are on standby to serve relief duty if called, she said.

Here are some of the civilian efforts under way on Whidbey:

• Donations of school supplies are sought through Saturday, Sept. 24, and may be left at these locations: Living Hope Foursquare Church, Coupeville; Red Apple Prairie Center, Coupeville; K-Mart, Oak Harbor; Office Max, Oak Harbor.

These items are suggested: Pencils, crayons, markers, folders, paper, tissue, hand sanitizer, erasers, pencil sharpeners, rulers, glue sticks, construction paper, copy paper, stickers, pencil boxes, pens, tape and dry erase markers.

For more information, contact Shawn or Renee Walstad at 678-8744 or swalstad@aol.com.

• Oak Harbor Youth Football League will donate money made at home games Saturday, Sept. 10, to the Red Cross hurricane relief fund. The league will hold a bake sale and accept donations.

• On Saturday, Sept. 24, a Salvation Army truck will be in the Oak Harbor Safeway parking lot from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Suggested donations are clean, used clothes of all sizes, towels, sheets, pillow cases, blankets, suitcases and toys. Please do not donate broken items that do not work.

If you prefer to donate money to the Salvation Army disaster relief fund, you may do so by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY or 1-360-293-6682. Checks may be made out to “The Salvation Army” and mailed to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 9219, Seattle WA 98109.

• The Red Cross is continuing to take donations. On Tuesday, Frank’s Place Restaurant donated $1,000 to Ron Eerkes, board chairman of the Island County Red Cross Chapter. “We’re doing very well, we’re extremely busy,” Eerkes said. Call 1-800-HELP-NOW to make a Red Cross donation.

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