Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2005

Baldwin swings back at Hurricane Katrina

September 8, 2005

Hurricane Katrina didn't hit Baldwin City, but the community is hitting back.
Businessman Ken Wagner, a former city councilman, is spearheading efforts to unite the city, Baker University and the school district to bring help for those devastated by the storm in the Gulf Coast.
"This thing is of epic proportions," Wagner said of the storm that ravaged New Orleans, other areas of Louisiana and Mississippi and Alabama along the coast. "Hopefully, we'll never experience something like this again. I just want Baldwin City to go down in history as doing something.
"You do feel helpless," he said. "Everyone that I've talked to have just been horrified about what's gone on. This is something we can help with as a community."
Wagner and his wife, Diane, organized an emergency community meeting regarding hurricane relief efforts Friday. Despite there only being a matter of hours to get the word out, there were 25 people who attended the meeting and it turned into quite a discussion.
Now, there's been another meeting scheduled to continue what was started. The meeting is set for tonight at 7 at the McKibben concert room on the first floor of the Owens Music Hall on the Baker campus.
Wagner said from the initial meeting that there were two or three who volunteered to house families. There were job offers, as well. Monetary pledges were also made. Now, with more time to get the word out about the community wide effort, it's hoped that more definite plans can be made.
"What I'd like to come away with this Thursday night is a definite number of people that we can help," said Wagner. "How many families can we handle. I want a number.
"There have been jobs offered on a full-time basis and part-time basis," he said. "I'd like to come up with a list of assets that we can put together to offer. Time is of the essence, but I want to do it right. The biggest thing is I'd like to see more input on what people can offer."
Wagner's effort isn't the only one in place in Baldwin. Last Thursday, Baker announced its aid effort to put health kits and clean up buckets together to send to the Louisiana area. A story on that is elsewhere in the Signal. Also, the school district began fund-raising efforts throughout the schools on Friday.
"Baker University has been doing a lot of different things," said Wagner. "(President) Dan Lambert has been just fantastic. Lonnie Broers, the president of the school board, was at the meeting. I've talked to (Supt.) Jim White about how they can help. They were very supportive.
"The community support has been fabulous," he said. "Why not do this as a community? I think people like the idea. We could be taking a risk. By not doing something, the risk is greater. If the shoe was on the other foot, I'd want some help. It doesn't hurt to ask for help."
Wagner took his message to the city council at Monday's meeting. He praised the city staff that had already helped with the effort, including getting last week's meeting off the ground.

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