Jonesboro residents remember Katrina relief efforts

Jonesboro residents remember Katrina relief efforts

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Every time there is a need, the people of Region 8 step up and fill it. That was never more evident than 10 years ago.

It was August, 2005, that we were all watching Hurricane Katrina batter and flood New Orleans, plus impact the Mississippi Gulf Coast. That was just the first wave of the storm. Round two of the storm sent a number of New Orleans and Gulf residents to safer communities, like Jonesboro.

For many, the images of the aftermath, whether seen on television or in person, remain vivid.

"Just debris everywhere. people's belongings from their houses strewn all over the place and...really hard to understand the strength and the power of the water that came in so high and so strong," Mary Ellen Warner said.

Mary Ellen and her husband Bob traveled to the Gulf after the hurricane. "We got closer and closer to the beach and houses were just...they were gone," Mary Ellen said. "All you would see were piles of wood."

Images that, to this day are hard to grasp, especially when the area destroyed is home. "I grew up in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi," Bob Warner said. "Which was kind of a ground zero for the hurricane."

Dr. Bob Warner grew up on the coast and even lived through a hurricane as a child. "Those of us who had lived through Hurricane Camille thought we were kind of special that we had lived through this disaster," Bob said.

That was until they saw the aftermath of Katrina. "We just really got to feeling like we should do something to help everybody," Bob said. "It was just kind of a feeling that you had to help because they couldn't help themselves at that point."

At the same time, those who couldn't leave Jonesboro were helping those who had to leave the Gulf.

"It was total community pulling together," Holly Acebo described. Acebo owns LensMasters in Jonesboro. Ten years ago though, she was serving as the Director of Marketing for NEA Clinic and the executive director of the NEA Clinic Charitable Foundation.

"It was amazing because no sooner had we started to think about what's the impact going to be like for Northeast Arkansas, other people started to think the same way," Acebo related. Acebo said they were able to utilize an empty building and fill it with booths of businesses ready and willing to help Katrina victims.

"People were so willing to help these strangers in need," Acebo said.

"To me that says something about Jonesboro," Dr. Bob Warner said. "It says something about the community...the giving heart that many people here have."

Acebo related that out of the tragedy, an idea was born that is still helping Region 8 residents to this day. Acebo says LensMasters was among the businesses helping victims by making glasses for those who left home without them free of charge.

When the NEA Charitable Foundation started up Hope Week, LensMasters' decided to do the same for area children who couldn't afford new glasses.

"So for years, we've been working through the schools during Hope Week, which is the end of September and identifying children who otherwise couldn't afford their glasses and make them for no charge," Acebo said. "Through experiences of something so devastating and so terrible, comes out a program that continues, year after year, to help people in need."

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