Recovering wild puppies from under abandoned houses, helping to cook thousands of meals, distributing tons of food and supplies, supplying feeding stations for animals in New Orleans' worst affected neighborhoods and much, much more - this is how some DeKalb Boy Scouts spent their recent Easter vacation.
Fifteen Scouts and adults from DeKalb's Troop 33 traveled south to Mississippi and Louisiana over the Easter vacation. This was their second mission trip to do hurricane relief work along the Gulf Coast.
Two loaded trucks pulled two trailers loaded down with more than three tons of donated items. Included were more than 50 reconditioned bicycles, thousands of items of clothing, canned food, books, bottled water and other miscellaneous items. Hundreds of dollars in baby wipes, disposable diapers and over-the-counter medications also were purchased and donated upon arrival.
Along the beach in Pass Christian, Miss., is a place called God's Katrina Kitchen where a large circus tent serves as a distribution center for hundreds of families, with a feeding tent serving more than 2,000 meals each day. Scouts worked long hours in both the distribution tent and the feeding tent. In addition, they worked moving and sorting food and supplies, repairing the parking lot and constructing new equipment. God's Katrina Kitchen also houses volunteers working in the surrounding communities. The Scouts camped in tents while at God's Katrina Kitchen.
Scouts also donated books to the Pass Christian Library, which is operating temporarily out of a double-wide trailer. In addition, they donated money to help reconstruct the city's Memorial Park.
Another major project was completed in New Orleans, La., at the ARNO animal rescue center. A truckload of chlorine bleach, pet formula, feeding tins, sleeping pads, bottled water and more was donated to the center. Scouts erected a quarantine area for dogs, washed more than a dozen large garbage bags filled with soiled animal laundry and sanitized the entire facility by washing it down with a bleach solution.
Their most exciting project came when the center's professional rescue team was unable to rescue puppies under houses due to the small spaces. They called upon the Scouts to help because the Scouts could reach into the smallest of places. Thirteen wild puppies were rescued from under four houses over the next two days by a team of Troop 33 Scouts.
Rescuing puppies wasn't an easy task. Scouts had to crawl and squeeze under abandoned houses to reach the puppies. These wild puppies had never seen humans before and viewed the Scouts as predators. Instinct took over, with the wild puppies biting and fighting for their lives. Scouts were provided equipment to help them secure the animals. Once in a kennel or under a net, the puppies quickly calmed down. Efforts are under way to bring the puppies to DeKalb County for adoption.
Another project was stocking animal feeding stations with food and water. More than 4,000 feeding stations exist in New Orleans. Troop 33 worked on the most crucial stations placed in devastated areas of New Orleans. Food and water stations are placed mostly under abandoned buildings in areas where animals have been sighted.
The abandoned cats and dogs rely on the feeding stations to survive until rescue teams can trap them and put them into foster care, ultimately reuniting them with their owners. Cats were observed feeding just minutes after some stations were refilled.
While in New Orleans refilling food and water stations, Scouts had the opportunity to see firsthand the widespread destruction caused by flooding. In neighborhood after neighborhood, debris and rubbish was piled high along the streets. The Scouts saw people working desperately to reclaim their historic homes. Many homes that were badly damaged probably will be lost.
Back in December, a group of 29 Troop 33 Scouts and adults went down to the Gulf Coast over Christmas vacation. They delivered three tons of donated items, cooked a holiday banquet for homeless military families, set up an animal rescue center and worked at God's Katrina Kitchen's feeding tent.
A third visit is planned for June when Scouts will ride a 500-mile bike-a-thon route between Memphis and New Orleans to raise more money for Katrina victims.
To date, Troop 33 has raised more than $12,000 to help in hurricane relief efforts. These funds have supported the American Red Cross Katrina Disaster Fund, God's Katrina Kitchen, the village of Pass Christian, families at Keesler Air Force Base, ARNO animal rescue center, two mission trips and Boy Scout Troop 316 of Pass Christian, Miss.
Also, Scouts have collected, transported and delivered more than six tons of critically needed items. Troop 33 thanks Midwest Tree Service for providing two trucks and a large 20-foot trailer for the Easter mission trip. The Tri-congregation Council of First Lutheran Church, First Methodist Church and St. Mary Catholic Church raised funds and donated many of the items transported to Mississippi and Louisiana. DeKalb County Animal Shelter donated many items for ARNO animal rescue center. The DeKalb Noon Lions Club, Kishwaukee Kiwanis Club and Oswego Rotary Club also made major monetary donations to support Troop 33's Easter Mission.
The affected areas in Mississippi have made major strides in cleaning up debris and tearing down condemned buildings. Homes are being refurbished, new homes are being built and some businesses are slowly re-opening. FEMA tent cities have been replaced with FEMA trailer parks. The recovery is a slow and painful process, but much work has been accomplished since December. Many years of work still remain ahead.
Community service has been a tradition of the Boy Scouts of America since 1910. In any disaster, you will see Scouts at work helping others. Year round, Scouts do projects to help their communities. The Scouts of Troop 33 remain committed to work hard in support of the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Troop 33 is sponsored by First Lutheran Church in DeKalb.