In the words of Lionel Collins:
On August 28, 2005, my family and I left New Orleans, LA headed to Jackson, MS - evacuating from Hurricane Katrina.
Making it to Jackson, after a 16-hour drive, the battle was not over. We drove another 7 hours in search of a hotel room for the night. Finding none, we went to the Mississippi Coliseum, being used as a shelter. Once there, we were given the basic essentials as far as clothing, food, shelter.
Katrina proved to be far more serious than we previously thought. Sitting in the Coliseum was difficult, away from the comforts of our home and sleeping in a building with complete strangers. The city of Jackson's efforts was greatly appreciated. Among other things, they hired barbers to cut hair for $9.00 per person. This was not affordable to most evacuees. So I bought a pair of clippers and began offering free haircuts.
This was the beginning of my permanent move to Jackson.
While waiting outside in the broiling sun in a FEMA assistance line, I met Ms. Christy Dunaway with LIFE of Mississippi. She recognized immediately that the wheelchair I was using was not meant for me. She got me a new one, more suited to my disability and stature. She introduced me to LIFE AmeriCorps members to help me learn more about the city of Jackson and what it had to offer people with disabilities. They helped me find an accessible, affordable apartment here since I had learned there was nothing to return home to. They helped me take care of basic business, like a change of address, seeking financial aid from the state and federal government and much more.
Once settled, I applied for an AmeriCorps position myself, and was accepted! Now they were teaching me leadership skills and all around people skills. I am now more focused when tackling tasks, large or small. From being a part of one of the largest families to evacuate from one of the largest natural disasters, I have become a part of one of the largest organizations assisting people with disabilities in need. It has been a long process but it has also been fulfilling and meaningful."
Ms. Jerri Walton:
In 1999, Jerri left the state of Iowa in search of a warmer climate, someplace without months of ice and snow. Traveling around her Iowa community with a walker had become more difficult and treacherous for her.
Leaving behind family and friends, she came to Mississippi where she knew no one. Putting her faith in LIFE of Mississippi, she made the move.
She arrived on August 30, in the heat of the summer.
LIFE staff found Jerri an accessible, affordable apartment just one block from the state offices in downtown Jackson. We assisted her in moving into her apartment, getting the lay of the land, so to speak and meeting a few neighbors. Jerri quickly learned her way around the community, frequenting the grocery store, drug store and local library. She learned to use the bus system in the city and could be seen at local community events. Jerri has found a church home that she can count on to support her efforts.
She is a strong self-advocate. Because of her efforts, the city of Jackson made necessary repairs to sidewalks and crosswalks in her area. She served as an AmeriCorps member for LIFE from 2000-2002, working with other individuals with disabilities to lead quality lives in their own homes and communities.
Jerri currently serves on the LIFE Board of Directors as well as the Transportation Advisory Council for the city of Jackson. She has a full LIFE - in a warm climate - and many friends!