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Off to Biloxi, "Friends" Help Katrina Victims

In the last two weeks, a variety of Richmond churches, schools, organizations and individuals have rallied to assist those suffering in the Gulf Coast. They've held fund-raisers and food drives and signed up to volunteer.

The Friends group are taking a different route. While much of the aid has been sent to victims in Houston and New Orleans, many Biloxi residents remain helpless and homeless, Pearson says, literally sleeping in the streets outside their ruined homes.

The trucks, bound for Biloxi, Miss., and Mobile, Ala., were filled by donations of all kinds of useful things, says Denise Layton, secretary-treasurer of the organization: "tents — 'cause they're basically outside — blankets, bleach, detergent, tarps for the roofs, cleaning items, frozen meats, baby items, breakfast foods, socks and T-shirts."

The 40 or so Richmond volunteers are headed to Houston to work for the Salvation Army in a warehouse that serves as a free "shopping center" for hurricane victims. For five days they'll sort donations and assist with distributions.

Law firm Hunton & Williams, where Pearson worked for 18 years in office services, donated enough money to pay for the volunteers' lodging, meals and expenses — which "really brings joy to my heart," Pearson says.

"Yeah, we might have been frustrated with the president of the United States and other leaders," he says. But ministering to those in Biloxi and Houston can help make things right, Pearson says. — Melissa Scott Sinclair

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