Red Cross drive-up opens in Hahnville

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 17, 2005


Managing Editor

HAHNVILLE — The double row of 15 to 20 cars stretched down the rural highway connecting LA 3127 and River Road in Hahnville. The shoulders of the highway were dotted with tents. Between the vehicles walked armed National Guardsmen, St. Charles Parish deputies and American Red Cross volunteers.

The template had been set in Slidell, dealing with hurricane victims in a drive-through setup, and it was working.

“This is the new template since Slidell,” Debbie Clyne, supervising the Red Cross operation, commented as she brushed the occasional fly out of the Home Place Plantation cane field from her face. “It’s going pretty smoothly.”

The setup was geared to deal with as many applicants as possible during a limited time. The operation will continue at this site, as long as necessary. In the past, office space would be rented and people would have to park and line up on foot for hours. This way, set-up is faster and easier, the work goes more quickly and more people are addressed more efficiently.

Clients are asked to provide names, pre- and post-hurricane addresses, a utility bill, and to have a photo ID handy. In operation from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, people began lining up at 3 a.m.

Deputies and Guardsmen patrolled the operation constantly, on hand in case of trouble. “It’s great to work with them,” Cline said. “It’s security first, then safety.”

Clyne reminded that no vouchers or food are being provided. Instead, only a basic form is completed, to be sent to the Coordinated Assistance Network, headquarted in Baton Rouge.

There, a computer system will verify qualification for aid, seek out potential attempts at fraud and prompt a benefit check to be sent, where appropriate, in two or three weeks.

“We’ve had very few incidents,” Clyne said. “Most have been gracious and happy to see us here.”

To be fair, she did point out that the set-up was hard on workers, standing in the hot sun for hours on end, most so caught up in the work they neglect their own needs, such as water breaks.

Clyne, who hails from Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada, worked 9/11 in New York City, but said this is “vastly different.”

In New York, she explained, people had homes to return to, and lives to continue. In this instance, thousands of people are affected in life-changing ways. “It’s become a full-time job for many, seeking relief.”

In Slidell, where she worked prior to coming to Hahnville, she saw people living in tents and in their own cars. One family was living in a Budget rental truck.

Medical problems were also a possibility. In Slidell, Clyne recalled at least two births and one heart attack.

At the Hahnville site, as with others, a person applying for Red Cross aid could qualify for a $360 check for a single person. That goes to $665 for two persons, $965 for three, $1,265 for four and $1,565 for five or more persons.

Another Canadian volunteer, Tracy Tangen, of Saskatchewan in western Canada, was one working the line, patiently listening to each story, patiently taking down in formation and, where necessary, passing along a bottle of water or a snack to someone who may have been in line for some time.

Local volunteers have been coming in on a daily basis to assist, and “angels” have also come through the line, including, on Wednesday, one pharmaceutical salesman who dropped off several cases of eye drops for the volunteers.

“They’ve been wonderful,” Clyne said.