Bearing a message of hope
• Group of locals carry supplies and equipment to small town in Mississippi devastated by Katrina
When Joe Zaydell, a Jefferson County EMT, first decided he needed to help his Mississippi in-laws in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, he was only thinking of sending a small care package west. Little did he know that in a matter of days he'd visit his family bearing a message of hope in a team of workers and around 15,000 pounds of supplies for their community.
"Maranda's (his wife's) entire family lives in Mississippi," Zaydell said. "We talked to them before the storm and during it, whenever we could get a cell signal. It was in and out. We'd talk to them for a few seconds and then we couldn't get them again maybe for hours."
Zaydell said that they had encouraged them to evacuate, but they had other family that wouldn't leave and their hometown of Purvis is 80 to 90 miles inland, just outside of Hattiesburg, and they didn't expect the destruction that came.
In the days following the storm an idea stuck in Zaydell's mind.
"I kept thinking that we needed to do something, to send them a box of food or, I don't know, something," Zaydell said.
As days went by he saw news coverage of the destruction and he heard more and more about how desperate people were getting in Purvis and other storm ravaged cities along the coast. He decided that more was needed.
"Purvis is about the size of Wrens, but more spread out," Zaydell said. "The more I talked to people out there, the more we realized that a lot of these small rural communities were being overlooked by the federal emergency management agencies."
A lot of the relief efforts were focusing more on big cities and further south along the "hot zones" where the hurricane first made landfall.
"We were hearing that there really was no federal assistance presence in there area," Zaydell said. "A lot of these smaller communities, well inland, are still inaccessible. The government expects these people to dig their way out and then get themselves to the bigger areas where relief efforts are being staged."
His family, he said, are having to drive close to 40 miles for ice and other support in a place where gasoline is difficult, if not impossible to come by.
"Things were getting desperate," he said. "The water and supplies were running out; they still didn't have any power. The neighbors were pulling together to share items and to make sure everyone got fed, but things were really getting difficult."
There were several instances when the family had heard people trying to get into their home during the night, possible looters scavenging for rations to feed themselves or their families.
When he heard these stories Zaydell started seriously gathering items and donations for this community.
"The whole situation really haunted me," Zaydell said. "I was having dreams about it."
That Sunday he stood up in church at Wrens Baptist and gave a testimony. Afterwards two members came to him with donations.
That night he prayed about it, but still he wasn't sure how much he was going to be able to do.
"The next day it all started coming together," Zaydell said. "Everything that could have been a problem worked out."
He canvassed both Wrens and Louisville and started raising donations and goods. Trailers and vehicles to pull them were offered on loan.
"Danny Norton with Wrens Fire Department gave me a call," Zaydell said. "He said he'd heard that we were going out to help my family and wanted to know if we wanted some company."
In the end the Zaydells were joined by Norton and fellow area fire fighters Greg McDonald, Lynn Boulineau, Glen Poole and his wife Michelle in their 12-hour trip west.
Zaydell said the storm damage began pretty much at the Mississippi-Alabama line and got worse and worse as they drove west. Several times they had to back out of areas where trees and downed powerlines forced them to find another route to Purvis.
Eventually they arrived to see a hand-lettered sign reading "Welcome Jefferson County, Georgia."
"They were so glad to see us," Zaydell said. "These people are very proud. They would never ask for help. But you could see they needed it and they told us how much they appreciated it."
They unloaded the items at his family's home and they called around to neighbors and friends, spreading the word that items had arrived.
"In all I think we must have helped 150 people/families," Zaydell said. "The response was overwhelming."
While Zaydell and some of the others helped disperse items, another group carried chainsaws across the street to help a 93-year-old neighbor clear fallen trees from his property.
"This man was taking care of his 69 and 73-year-old daughters and he had been working in the yard every day since the storm," Zaydell said. "At one point he had nearly passed out and his daughters said they had prayed for help, so that he wouldn't kill himself in the yard."
On their final day, they took a few boxes of leftover goods south, hoping to help closer to the coast. In Gulfport they handed out business cards for other Jefferson County firefighters who were planning trips bringing aid to that area.
"This whole experience has been incredible," Zaydell said. "To think it all grew from just wanting to send a box or two. I never imagined we'd have gotten this much support. The Lord does work miracles...It was a life-changing experience for us all."
Voters will need to prepare for Nov. elections
• Voter registration deadline is Oct. 11; Will need photo ID to cast ballot
By Ben Roberts
With elections taking place in numerous cities in both Jefferson and Glascock counties on Nov. 8, voters should keep in mind they will need one of a limited number of accepted photo ID's before they may cast a ballot.
Those six forms of accepted ID's are: a Georgia driver's license, a valid government agency photo ID, a valid passport, a valid employee card from a federal, state or county government agency, a valid military photo ID, or a valid tribal card.
The last day for voters to register for the Nov. 8 elections is Tuesday, Oct. 11. Prospective voters may register at the county's Office of the Registrar, the city hall for their city of residence or a Department of Driver Services office. A valid photo ID must also be presented to register.
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In an effort to aid voters in outlying areas who may not currently have valid photo ID's or who might have trouble getting those ID's before election time, the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS) has created a mobile licensing unit that has been traveling the state since the first of September.
The GLOW (Georgia Licensing On Wheels) bus has the capability of issuing up to 200 ID cards or renewed driver's licenses in one day and has spent the last several weeks traveling to various areas of the state.
Just how effective the GLOW bus has been is at question.
As of Sept. 21, the bus had issued just 195 ID's total since its creation. It was in Gibson on Sept. 9, but issued only one photo ID and five licenses. The bus was parked in the Jefferson County Courthouse parking lot in Louisville on Tuesday, but DDS did not have the total number of ID's issued as of press time.
Susan Sports, public information officer for DDS, said the department was careful in its decision about where the bus would go and when.
"We looked at demographics and census information…We tried to go about it very methodically," she said. "We thought we had anticipated a need."
The lack of ID's issued by the GLOW bus may have less to do with need than a lack of proper advertising. The News and Farmer/The Jefferson Reporter received a notice about the bus's stop in Gibson and Louisville only days before its arrival. Both times the DDS office missed getting an announcement in the newspaper.
Sports called the work of the GLOW bus an issue of "trial and error."
"We're spending a great deal of time getting the word out," she said.
For more information regarding photo ID locations or to view the GLOW bus schedule, visit the DDS website at www.dds.ga.gov.