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Gulf Coast Relief by the Truckload

  Karen Engell
Karen Engell
(photo by Donna Cote)

Karen Engell, director of Health Services, will have her Thanksgiving dinner on the road this year. She and her husband will be driving a truck to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi carrying relief supplies to victims of Hurricane Katrina. Engell, who grew up in Denham Springs, Mississippi, has been working on a plan to get much-needed supplies to the Gulf Coast since just after the disaster. Finally, this past Monday, she was able to secure a 22-foot truck to transport donated goods. Now she is intent on spreading the word throughout the College and the surrounding communities so that people will help her fill the truck. “Gas costs the same if it’s half-empty or full,” she said. “I want it full.”

Engell and her husband will take the donations to her brother in Pascagoula, Mississippi, who will distribute the goods through his church and the school where his wife teaches. She hopes that when people know there is a truck headed to a specific distribution point, they will be more likely to make contributions. “I hope that people will empty their basements. I have been waiting to find that there is a definite place where the goods will go. I think people will respond when they know this,” Engell said.

Engell said that specific needs have changed since the days immediately following the hurricane. Most people have been moved out of shelters into temporary housing, and they need household goods and clothing. “First we were concentrating on school supplies, toys, and clothing for kids,” Engell said. “Now people are needing to replace everything in their households.” Engell’s list includes kitchen utensils, pots and pans, small appliances, dishware, linens, blankets, and adult clothing suitable for work and job interviews.

Not only have needs changed, said Engell, but the energy and resources to cope with the tragedy have waned. “Fatigue is setting into the area. Churches need to get back to doing what they do—programming and services—and schools need to be teaching,” Engell said. “FEMA’s efforts came right after and then stopped. Major distribution centers have dried up. Businesses that used their parking lots for donation sites now need those parking lots for rebuilding or for business that has opened up again. We’re in a different phase.”

Engell is grateful to members of the Mount Holyoke community, including facilities management and CAUSE, and others who have helped with the effort. “There are a lot of people involved in this,” she said.

Donations should be packed in cardboard boxes, labeled, and dropped off at the conference room at the health services building. Engell also needs people to help load the truck on Monday, November 21. If you are available to help, contact her at x2170 or via email at


On the MHC Web:

CAUSE Hurricane Katrina Efforts

Hurricane Katrina Index

News & Events Index

Copyright © 2006 Mount Holyoke College. This page created and maintained by Office of Communications. Last modified on June 13, 2006.