A Letter from Nancy:
Huricane Katrina assistance
Dear close friends and family,
Some of you may already know this but I recently joined
a group of Scientologist Volunteer Ministers and spent 5
days in Baton Rouge. It was both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
Without the help of so many good people, we would never
have been able to handle the thousands of lost, displaced
and desperate people. Here is more information to consider:
This was by far the worst natural disaster
in the U.S. in over 100 years so most of us have never
seen anything like this in this lifetime... but something
can be done about it and it is being done!
The International Disaster Response Team
(aka "Volunteer Minsters") worked at Ground
Zero during 9-11, assisting the rescue workers by giving
vitamins, Dianetic Assists*(see reference below) to help
get their bodies in better shape to keep working the long
hours and assisting with mental stress due to the losses
Similar teams of hundreds of Volunteer
Ministers went to Sri Lanka and other cities in the hard-hit
area of the tusunami disaster last spring in Asia
The Volunteer Ministers have been a major
force of "help" at every hurricane to hit Florida
in the last three years
As of Sept. 1, the Volunteer Ministers
were officially assigned the job of helping a government
agency in the relocation of hundreds of people to new
shelters. We have been given clearance to provide counseling
and assistance to people through Scientology techniques
The Volunteer Ministers have been operating
in the State of Louisiana and as of Sept. 8th was THE
ONLY organization allowed to cross into New Orleans to
assist the army, sheriff's department, SWAT Teams, National
Guard and local fire departments
Through many phone calls and using all
our contacts, the Volunteer Ministers provided 10,000
units of tetanus to make sure that the recovery teams
were physically stable in order to go into the belly of
the disaster without jeopardizing their own health. NO
OTHER ORGANIZATION PROVIDED THIS INVALUABLE SERVICE.
After countless e-mails from friends across the country going
into more and more detail of the need for help, I decided
to just stop everything I was doing and GO! My assistant,
Janelle, got on the internet and the only way we could arrive
in Baton Rouge was via Houston. (No rental cars in the entire
state of Louisiana!) So off we went to Houston. We picked
up another Volunteer Minister, 16-year-old Chafee Graham-
a free-spirited lad whose willingness to help others sets
the bar for the rest of us (Plus, with all our "camping
gear"--backpacks, food for 4-days consisting of protein
bars, beef jerkey, trail mix, apples, bananas and peanut butter,
we also lugged sleeping bags, change of underwear, flashlights,
waterproof hiking boots and socks--having a buff 16-year-old
was definitely helpful!)
Too excited to sleep, got up very early and caught our flight
out on Sept. 3. We had a "pitstop" in Houston, just
enough time to get the rental car and some food and head on
our way to Lafayette, Louisiana. A dear friend of ours, Marie
Pace, has a mission there and she was anxiously awaiting our
arrival. We planned on dropping Chafee at the mission and
then continue on our journey to Baton Rouge, but after the
4 hour drive to Lafayette, we decided not to drive into Baton
Rouge in the middle of the night, so after getting briefed
on all the “goings on”, we bunked down for the
night and Janelle and I headed into Baton Rouge in the morning.
(We planned on stopping by at the "back end" of
our journey to visit the shelter in Lafayette.)
First stop: the Baton Rouge Mission of Scientology. When we
arrived there were already hundreds of volunteers, scurrying
here and there, getting signed in, filling out information
forms and being handed a bright yellow t-shirt that identified
us as a Volunteer Minister. One of the most amazing and admirable
aspects to this particular group is that we really know how
to organize. Everyone was assigned to a particular job, department
or area. Those who are experts at organization ended up staying
back at the mission in order to "run" the entire
organization at this base. (Janelle is a real pro in this
area and the Top Management snatched her up in a second to
stay on base and put the organization there.) Others who are
very good at personal interaction and delivering "Assists"
(see below) were assigned to go to certain shelters to help
in that area. It was being a part of a very productive scout
troupe whose expertise is "assisting those in need, no
matter what the problem." I was very proud to be a part
of such a dedicated group. And if I every wondered who or
what was going on, all I needed to do was look on the wall
and there was posted a board that showed all the various areas
and assignments. The phones were ringing off the hook with
people wanting to know what they could do to help. It was
really an amazing flurry of energy.
I was asked what I wanted to do and I thought it would be
a good idea to just go on over to River Center (the convention
center in Baton Rouge) and bring some joy to the kids, either
by telling stories or talking to them like Bart, and that
is exactly what I did. I went with some other volunteers and
first took a look around the place to get my bearings.
I had never seen anything quite like it. There were thousands
of people, on cots, on mats, in tents and all inside about
4 huge convention rooms. The main room had the most people.
I couldn't tell who was in charge. It seemed very disorganized
to me. Kids were running around without any control or order.
People were crowded in lines, waiting for food and clothing.
They had been there for several days and everyone looked tired
and frustrated. I was given a "tour" of the facility
and couldn't believe my eyes. In the loading dock area were
table after table set up with all sorts of clothes, shoes,
diapers, etc. on them. Red Cross volunteers were doing the
best they could to sort things out, but at this point in time
it was a bit hectic. Further down the aisle were the food
and dry goods. It was like I was inside a Costco or Food Barn.
Plenty of food and goods for everyone. The only thing that
seemed to be missing was the overall strategy on how exactly
to distribute the clothes and food in an orderly fashion.
The volunteers looked overwhelmed and clearly could use some
There was another volunteer who would use a sound system to
announce when meals were served and also to announce "Is
there a Jefferson Wilkes here?" I got him to make an
announcement that the voice of Bart Simpson would be speaking
to kids age 10 on up in the lobby at 7:00. Our own volunteers
branched out into the maelstrom of evacuees and by 7:00 I
had a small gathering of about 100 kids ready for a show.
For about an hour I did voices and told stories about working
on The Simpsons. The kids laughed and had tons of questions
and so did the parents who decided to "check me out."
Meanwhile, the other Volunteer Ministers had set up a tent
nearby and were delivering Assists to anyone who needed a
little help. They were good listeners and just willing to
listen to so many stories of what had happened. People kept
coming back and introducing us to others. It was a long day
that ended around midnight.
Up bright and early the next morning, we were back at the
mission by 9:00. This day I went off with 4 other women to
a shelter in Port Allen, not far from HQ. Prior to going we
swung by a drugstore to see if they had any children's books.
I thought it would be a good idea to just give the mom's a
break and read to the kids. The coolest thing was that I couldn't
help but notice the heads turn when I "and my posse"
walked into the store. Wearing those t-shirts really identifies
who you are and what you do and so many people came up to
us and thanked us for what we are doing. It was amazing. Lots
wondered what all we do and after we told them, they would
just thank us over and over, especially because "my girls"
were from Boston, Indiana, Florida, St. Louis and me from
California. Very cool.
The drugstore didn't have any books, but they did have nail
polish! I thought that while I was telling stories to the
kids that the moms would probably love to get their nails
done! So we bought 25 different shades of nail polish and
remover, files, cotton swabs, etc and headed to the nearest
Barnes and Noble to get the books.
With supplies in hand, we toured the shelter. This place was
much more organized than River Center. There were fewer people,
only about 450. No tents, plus they had air mattresses to
make their sleeping conditions a little better. There was
one kid, "Champ", about 15 years old, who had sprained
his ankle. One of the VMs gave him a Touch Assist* and to
show us that he was all better, he wanted to sprint from one
end of the shelter to the other. And he did! This kid was
so happy because his ankle didn't hurt anymore.
You would think that people in this condition would all be
sitting around and crying and moaning for their losses, but
what I found was different. Yes, there were people laying
in bed and trying to get rest, but most people were just trying
to find something to do. The boredom was most prevalent. The
kids were really bored, so they would mostly just be running
around and picking fights with each other or creating chaos,
which then makes the shelter overall a more difficult place
for parents and kids alike. They really needed something to
occupy their minds. I went into the bathroom and there were
3 girls in there doing each other's hair. They were styling
each other, it was adorable. I asked them if they wanted a
manicure and man-oh-man did their eyes light up. I told them
that we were setting up a station to do that and to bring
As the station was getting set up, I got ahold of a microphone
and gathered a whole bunch of kids together and did more voices
and sound effects and then ended up reading about 5 children's
stories to the little kids. Later I had several parents and
grandparents tell me that they really enjoyed hearing me tell
the stories and couldn't believe that "Bart Simpson"
was here! The rest of the day I ended up "doing Bart"
for the kids. They loved it.
At one point in time, I came out of the bathroom and noticed
a bank of computers lining the back wall. I walked over and
there was a Volunteer Minister there helping a woman locate
her husband. My timing was just right because not 5 minutes
had passed when the woman started "Praising Jesus!"
because her husband was on the other end of the phone!! He
was in Houston. He was alive and well and praising Jesus too!
It was really something to witness. This was the first time
someone in that particular shelter had actually found a family
member! I grabbed the microphone and made the announcement
and the whole place broke into glorious cheers and applause.
It was a spectacular moment to witness.
After telling the stories and doing about 20 manicures, I
noticed a woman sitting on a cot with her 1-year-old baby.
She was totally apathetic --very sad and hopeless. I went
up to her and asked her how she was doing. She said, "All
right." I asked her if she wanted to take a walk. I told
her that I would watch her baby while she did that. She said,
"No, I'm fine. This is life." I couldn't help but
tell her, "This isn't life. This is crazy. Look at this
room. You are living with about 500 other people all in the
same space. This isn't normal. When was the last time you
ate?" She told me that she hadn't eaten all day. (It
was about 2:00 pm.) I told her that it was vital that she
take care of herself. "You need to take the vitamins
that are here. You need to eat and try to rest. Your baby
needs you--here. I don't know where you are, but you are not
HERE. Do you know what I mean?" She nodded yes. I went
and got her some vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, B1, potassium
and salt and some trail mix and a protein bar. She thanked
me. I asked her if this was all a bit of a dream. She said
yes, so I told her to take a walk and "Look at things....really
LOOK at them. Look at the cars, the trees and the buildings,
until they don't seem so dreamy." She agreed and off
That little baby was so adorable. I held onto her and within
5 minutes she was asleep on my arm. After a while I had to
shift sides and she clung to me so that I had to actually
pry her from body to shift her to the other side. Sweet. Well,
2 1/2 hours later, the mom finally came back!! She looked
and sounded like she had had about 12 hours sleep. It was
amazing how just getting out of that environment and taking
a walk helped her out, both mentally and spiritually. Amazing!
I went home that night with many, many new feelings. I felt
so good that I was surrounded by now a team of 250 Volunteer
Ministers (spread out among 11 shelters) and more and more
were arriving on an hourly basis. I also had an incredible
feeling of hope...
The next day, my "posse" and I took off for Irwinville,
a shelter that had the reputation for housing the "unruly"
and "gangsta" types. And it wasn't just the young
men - the women were pretty hostile too. Jesse, the man "In-Charge"
of the shelter, is a local who has earned his reputation of
being an authority figure. He comes across like a drill sergeant,
but his love and care for the kids is clear.
For example, he saw one kid named "Gerald"
walking around with his jeans hangin' down to his knees,
showing off his boxers for all to see. Jesse reprimanded
him right then and there. "You pull up those pants.
No one wears his pants over his backside like that! No one!
That is disrespectful to women. You pull them up and keep
them up. You may think that I am just being mean, but I
want you to know that I care for you. But if you wear your
pants like that when I come here tomorrow, you will be kicked
out and not welcome to come back!" And he pretty much
yelled this to everyone in the room. Then Jesse turned and
started to leave. Well, Gerald flipped Jesse the "middle
finger" and shuffled away without being "caught"--except
by me. I didn't do anything at that time. I just made a
mental note of "Gerald."
Anyway, trying to entertain that group was next to impossible.
They weren't interested and the real little kids were hard
to control. I started to read them books but couldn't hold
the microphone and the book at the same time, so I called
one of the trouble-makers over to help me. "What's
your name?" I asked. He mumbled something, but I couldn't
understand it. So I asked him again. And again, I couldn't
understand it. So I just said, "Okay, I am gonna just
call you 'Mike' cuz I need you to hold my mike. Okay, Mike?"
He kinda looked at me like I was a little nuts, but regardless,
he held the mike--for a whole hour!
After lunch, everyone was bored to tears.
Some woman from the community arrived with a bagful of kickballs
and hula hoops. So I yelled out, "Mike! Mike! Come
here! I need your help!" It had been a while since
he held the mike for me and had totally forgotten about
his "new name" but I insisted anyway. He cracked
a smile and came over. I told him that I wanted to get all
the "little guys" together to play a game of kickball.
"Go get your buddy, Gerald. I want you guys to be Team
Captains." (You remember Gerald, right? The "finger-flippin'-boxer-shorten'-gangsta"?
Well, he doesn't like to be called Gerald. He likes the
name "Jelly", so Mike and Jelly became the Team
Captains. They didn't want to play kickball. They wanted
to play Dodgeball. But I told them they would probably kill
anyone under 3’ 6" so..."We're playing kickball!!!"
There was a park with a baseball diamond right across the
way. We marched about 30 kids ages 3-10 to the field and
told Mike and Jelly to pick their teams. Mike went first:
"Okay, everyone line up." They did.
"Okay, now everyone smile." They did.
"Everyone with missing teeth is on my side!"
It was hilarious. One little kid ran up late and asked Mike
what side he was to play on. Mike said to him, "Smile."
He did. "Sorry. You have all your teeth. You’re
on Jelly's team."
And that was the whole spirit of the game. It was hilarious.
I really don't think Mike or Jelly ever had any chance to
prove their values--ever. They were wonderful captains and
played so well with the kids. They really got "into"
the game. In fact, at one time a kid popped a high-fly and
all the kids in the outfield scrambled to catch it, including
Mike. Well, at 6'4" Mike towered over the little guys
and very easily caught the ball. I immediately blew the
whistle. "MIKE! GET OVER HERE!"
"Mike, listen. This is a game for the little guys.
You can't go catchin' the ball. And if you do, you HAVE
to drop it or fall over. The idea is to let the little guys
win. If you catch all the balls, they won't want to play
And we were back into the game.
Well, within about 5 minutes, another high ball was popped
into the air and Godlovehim, Mike caught it again!
(Sound of whistle blowing) "MIKE! GET OVER HERE!"
Well, Mike knew exactly what I was going to say and he immediately
said, "Don't say it! Don't say it! I know! I know!
I am pulling myself out of the game and I am just gonna
be the Captain. JELLY?! GET OVER HERE!" And he proceeded
to tell Jelly that they should both not play and just stand
on the side lines.
It was truly amazing seeing these guys having fun with these
little kids. I was so impressed. After kickball we played
relay races and they were equally entertaining. Mike took
full-charge and got the kids divided into 2 groups based
on height. The 2 littlest ones went first. They were to
run about 50 feet, touch the bag with their feet and then
run back to the start line. "1-2-3 GO!" And they
were off! They didn't just run, they sprinted as fast as
they could. The only thing is that they kept on running...past
the bag and all away around the entire perimeter of the
field! It was a total hoot!
The second set of kids ran the race and by the time they
touched the bag and turned they were on top of each other
and trying to push the other guy out of the way! We were
all laughing hysterically because they weren't making any
headway and were just "dancing" together. It was
hilarious. The rest of the day was like that. We were out
there for 3 hours and no one complained. There were no fights
and everyone had a ball. It was truly one of the highlights
of the trip.
By the time nightfall came, it was time to go. A couple
girls wanted to know if we were going to be coming back
tomorrow. They were so sad that we weren't, but we got our
pictures taken with them. Also with Jelly and Mike. I am
hoping that they will stay in touch.
The next morning we were off to Lafayette's shelter in nearby
Abbeville, before embarking on the drive back to Houston.
It is totally run by Scientologists and has established
itself as an "Ideal Shelter" meaning that all
the medical and emotional needs are being taken care of.
When I arrived the kids were in school! Within another couple
days, Marie Pace, the Volunteer Minister in charge of the
shelter, and her team, completed what NO OTHER SHELTER IN
THE ENTIRE STATE OF LOUISIANA HAD DONE: They were given
24/7 responsibility for over 350 evacuees. With all their
knowledge, skill and interest in helping, the VMs made the
evacuees comfortable in their shelters, handled their basic
needs, gave them assists--thereby bringing relief from the
trauma and upset of their ordeal, helped them to confront
and deal with their new situations, brought one woman who
"flat-lined" back from the brink and then assisted
ALL 350 TO FIND HOMES AND WORK AND RELOCATE OUT OF THE SHELTER!!!
Within a matter of days, the Mayor of Lafayette proclaimed
the month of October as Scientology Month in acknowledgement
of the valuable contributions and work that the Scientology
Volunteer Ministers have done for Lafayette and their Parish!
Thought you would like to know! :O)
And for just a little more information, here's one example
of how determined Marie and her team work together to help
the displaced persons in Abbeville/Lafayette. This was written
by Marie herself:
… we had one last family to find a home for…
two VM’s literally walked the streets looking for
a home for this lady and her family… we were totally
determined to [finish this job} and achieve our product
here in Vermilion parish… as they walked down numerous
streets they noticed one house that was all dark inside…
they went door to door to find the owner and found her across
the street… a 91 year old lady who is legally blind…
they explained what was needed and wanted… negotiated
the lease… gave her the deposit and got the resident
over to the house to see it… then the problem became…
no electricity … it’s now 6:30 PM Saturday night…
I immediately got onto the phone to find the mayor to handle
this… he wasn’t available… but in my trusty
little phone list I had the cell phone for the mayor’s
secretary… got her on the phone and told her what
I needed for the electricity… only took her 1 hour
to handle and she got the utility company out to hook up
the electricity… whew!... but then… no water!....
called her back and it’s now 8 PM Saturday night….
Now I’m really asking a lot… within 30 minutes….
BAM! Water is on!... Now all I have to figure out is where
to get trucks to move the family in… another 30 minutes…
BAM! (starting to sound like Chef Emeril Legasses aren’t
I? oh.. you may not know him… a famous New Orleans
chef who always says… "BAM!")…. Now
I have trucks moving her in… don’t know any
other town in the US that could have pulled that off for
us… the lady at the utility company was so sweet…
she told me she got it done fast so I could go get some
sleep tonight! (only in South Louisiana!)
We are now officially done with the shelters…
every single person… with jobs and a new home or back
with their family members… what a cycle…
That said and with the passage of time, Hurricane Rita has
now "done her thing" and Abbeville is one of the
cities it hit, hard. Needless to say, Marie and the VMs
are back at it full-time.
BTW, if anyone wants to donate to VM
expenses call Marie Pace at (337) 257-9430