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Published: Tuesday, 9/6/2005

East Toledo, Oregon open arms to displaced family

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Kyle Ottney, 14, left, of Oregon gives $14 to Toledoan Verna Wilson for the McCrary family, with whom Ms. Wilson was trapped in New Orleans. The McCrary family is staying in East Toledo.
Kyle Ottney, 14, left, of Oregon gives $14 to Toledoan Verna Wilson for the McCrary family, with whom Ms. Wilson was trapped in New Orleans. The McCrary family is staying in East Toledo.
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Oregon and East Toledo residents yesterday welcomed a family displaced by Hurricane Katrina, dropping dollar bills into donation canisters and stockpiling boxes of food, clothing, and household goods.

Verna Wilson, a Toledoan who was trapped in New Orleans after the hurricane, welcomed the offers of assistance during a fund-raising effort in Oregon. Back home, finally, after several terror-filled days and nights, Ms. Wilson stood along Navarre Avenue, caught up in the waves of compassion for hurricane victims, in particular for her friend Katrina McCrary and her family.

Energized by the crowd s enthusiasm and touched by the kindness of strangers, Ms. Wilson put the horrible week behind her and wrapped her arms around the future. I m just glad to be home, she said. Everything s going to be all right.

Ms. Wilson, who flew into Toledo Express Airport from Austin, Texas, Sunday night, brought with her four members of Katrina s family Katrina s mother, Rose McCrary, and Miss McCrary s grandchildren, 4-year-old twins Amani and Amari and 10-year-old Nathaniel McCrary.

Our home is gone. All gone. Toledo is our home now, Miss McCrary said. I am so glad to get here. I do not want to look back to New Orleans.

Katrina McCrary, a 23-year-old paramedic, is still needed in New Orleans but will move to Toledo soon. Before she can leave, they ve got to see who s dead. They ve got to get the bodies out of the water, off the streets. Once they get things settled, she will come, her mother said.

Ms. Wilson, 22, a Waite High School graduate, was visiting the McCrary family when the hurricane hit. At first, they sought refuge in a downtown hotel and then the New Orleans Convention Center.

Eventually, they were taken to Austin.

We were just terrified. The looting was everywhere. I ve never seen anything so wild, Rose McCrary said.

The residents, including Oregon Mayor Marge Brown, raised about $1,000 for the family s airfare.

This is what our community, our town, is all about, Mayor Brown said shortly before she checked on the progress of four Oregon street department employees who were driving two trucks to Tennessee filled with donated items for the hurricane victims. Other drivers will take the items to Biloxi, Miss.

Rachel Burgess, 16, whose father, Ralph, was one of the truck drivers who went to Tennessee, said her family called off a planned garage sale and instead donated the items to the hurricane victims.

Just as the fund-raising effort was ending, Mary Wilson, Verna s mother, received word that the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross would help with the airfare, which means funds raised yesterday will be given to the family for other expenses. Ms. Wilson attends the University of Toledo, where she is a junior studying broadcast journalism.

Kristen Cajka, Red Cross chapter spokesman, said that as of last night, the chapter had provided assistance, such as for food, clothing, and shelter, to 98 hurricane victims.

Mary Wilson said for now, the McCrary family will live with her in East Toledo. A man in the neighborhood offered a home for them, but I want them to live with us for a while. They ve seen so much. They ve been through so much.

The first night here, the 4-year-old twins had trouble falling asleep. I asked them why they were still awake, and they told me, Mary Wilson said. They said they don t have their blankies anymore.

Contact Janet Romaker at:jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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