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MRDD Board hopes to help those with special needs

Hurricane Katrina's devastation has changed the face of our nation forever.

Once people get beyond the blame game and the second-guessing, the singular fact remains that thousands of people are struggling to live and still need the nation's help.

Among those suffering in unfathomable conditions are many men and women who have mental retardation and developmental retardation. Hundreds, and likely thousands, of individuals with MRDD in the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast remain isolated without many of the most basic necessities.

These men, women and children are simply not able to adjust and do the things that many of the other evacuees have been forced to do. The suffering has been immeasurable for all people and it will require all of us to lend a hand.

The Lawrence County Board of MRDD and other similar agencies across the state immediately began to look for ways to help. The agency quickly found out nearly 600 men, women and children enrolled in programs through the Mississippi's Community Mental Retardation Services are in dire need of food, supplies and medicine that may be the difference between life and death.

The call went out immediately: "We must help." The agency began organizing fund-raisers and asking its staff, students, enrollees and families to assist these children and adults very much like many of Lawrence County's greatest citizens.

"As of Friday, there were still lots of people that had still not gotten even the most basic of supplies," said Sarah Diamond Burroway, grants/special projects coordinator for the board of MRDD. "Our hearts just hurt. That is why we wanted to do something like this."

Glynn Kegley, bureau chief of administration for the Mississippi Department of Mental Health, outlined the sheer emotional strain of the situation in an e-mail.

"I think we’ll all come back eventually, but there will never be another day in the rest of our lives we don’t, at some point, think about this blasted hurricane," he said. "If I had a daughter named Katrina, I would make her change it. It has taken on the same connotation as the name Lucifer as far as I am concerned."

The board of MRDD is seeking cash contributions to buy supplies and services for these people with MRDD. All donations collected through the MRDD programs here will be used for these purposes. Checks can be made payable to "TSI, Inc." and noted for "Community MR Services, Gulf Coast Region, MS."

Contributions can be dropped off at the board office in Coal Grove at 604 Carlton Davidson Lane in Coal Grove. For more information, call the MRDD board office at (740) 532-7401 or (800) 231-MRDD.

"This information is not intended to take away from the needs of people in Louisiana. Neither is it intended to detract from other efforts seeking aid by other groups," Burroway said. "Locally, we felt it important to try and assist a companion program in a rural, economically-depressed area."

Burroway used a quote by famed British politician Sir Winston Churchill to illustrate the board's message: "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give."

As one of the greatest speakers of all time, Churchill knew what he was talking about when he said that. Truer words have never been spoken.

Michael Caldwell is the managing editor at The Ironton Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at mike.caldwell@irontontribune.com.