Kelly Jones, a Baton Rouge, Louisiana resident and the sister of Harrison Street Caf owner Sheri Ladd, appears to be in relatively good spirits. Her voice is packed with energy, she laughs often, and her optimism shines through despite the disastrous conditions that surround her.
Appearances, however, are often deceiving.
“I may seem like I’m taking it lightly but I’ve been crying for three days ?” I don’t have anything left in me,” she told the Review last week.
As of Friday, Jones, a former LaGrange resident, was without power, water or gas in her rural Baton Rouge house, now home to seven family members who have moved in to seek refuge.
The shelves were still empty at local supermarkets late last week, and looters have ransacked two nearby Wal-Marts.
Before Katrina, Jones worked for Northwestern Mutual, but she doesn’t know if the company’s New Orleans offices are still standing. “Our whole routine has been uprooted?I don’t think it’s hit everybody yet. Do we have jobs? We don’t know. The economy is destroyed,” she said. She knows the damage she suffered paled in comparison to the horrors endured by those just miles away in the big city. She’s been able to contact about half of her co-workers from New Orleans ?” she still doesn’t know the whereabouts of the others.
When Ladd heard about her sister’s situation, she was ready to pack her van full of food and other essentials and drive down to Louisiana, but soon found out that she would be turned away at the border.
Instead, she will be serving breakfast and lunch specials at the Harrison Street Caf with all proceeds going to relief efforts.
This spirit of generosity seems to have spread to others in Forest Park. Over the weekend, a group of local children set up a lemonade stand, first in front of one of their homes and then in front of Ed’s Way food store on Beloit, to raise money for relief.
The children, St. Bernardine students Savana Sandoval, Steven Sandoval and Madeline Parroni and home schoolers Jillian Hedges, Luke Hedges and Ana Garcia, sold $500 worth of lemonade in three days and will be donating the money to the Red Cross, according to the the Sandovals’ mother, Alisha.
While Ladd was turned away from entering the disaster zone, those with badges are being welcomed with open arms. Forest Park’s Fire Department is sending Chief Steve Glinke and firefighter Scott Popelka, as well as a ladder truck, to New Orleans. Their initial deployment from the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS), an aid organization which lists over 550 Illinois fire departments as members, is for 14 days.
Another firefighter, Amy Strong, is organizing a fundraiser which will include firefighters from Forest Park, Oak Park, River Forest and North Riverside who will be collecting money for the Salvation Army at major intersections in the area from 3-6 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 9.
She said she hopes to raise $10,000, though she said she is not sure if the figure is realistic. “People need so much stuff?at least it will help some. Maybe we can just do a little,” she said.
The Forest Park Police Department will also be sending Officer Nick Kozack through the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System, a statewide organized law enforcement cooperative which is shipping a total of 110 officers to affected areas, Mayor Anthony Calderone told the Review on Friday.
At Grant White school, children have been encouraged to bring in money to donate to the Red Cross, and community members are invited to drop by and donate over the next two weeks. School officials said they are hoping to find a company that will match the money they raise.
The village is doing its part by accepting donations to the Wonder Works Children’s Museum, which is sending toys, books and other items to children who have lost everything.
Drop off boxes have been set up at Village Hall, the Forest Park Library and the Howard Mohr Community Center. Financial donations can be mailed or dropped off at the museum, located at 6445 W. North Avenue, Oak Park, 60302.
Donations can also be sent to the United Way of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park. Those checks with “hurricane relief fund” in the reference line will go directly towards hurricane relief. No extra handling fee will be deducted from these donations.
To donate directly to the Red Cross, call (800) HELP NOW or send checks to the American Red Cross Capital Area Chapter, 1025. 6th St., Springfield, IL 62703.
“It’s going to help tremendously to get food to these people,” said Jones. “Our stuff is defrosting in our freezer ?” we’re cooking it up, so everybody can come eat. It might just be a bowl of broccoli, but it’s something,” she said.