“August 29th through too many days in September of 2005, I sat with my 5 year old niece watching the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. There was a lot of coverage showing people on the roofs of their homes, people stuck at the Superdome with very little to no necessities like food, water and medicine, in over 100 degree temperatures.
As I watched, I decided that I would go down and help. I said this out loud and my niece responded, “I want to go help too.” I was able to convince her that it didn’t look like a safe place for kids. She said, “Ok, but the people in Mississippi need help too Charlene.” I did not know where she got that information because all eyes were focused on New Orleans. But I replied, “So I should go to Mississippi instead?” And Mayah said, “Yes”.”
That began the journey of Charlene Marie King, a remarkable woman with a wonderfully huge and loving heart. She has made 19 trips to the Gulf Coast. The first trip was for 7 weeks from July 19 through September 2 of 2006. The most recent was for 2 weeks in July of this year. It has been 8 years since Katrina made landfall. Charlene has not forgotten the folks there who need help.
Charlene has a passion for what she dubs “post storm chasing” and out of that passion she has formed “The Not Forgotten Project”. The mission statement is to recruit volunteers to assist with ongoing efforts to rebuild and reestablish communities and areas devastated by natural and unnatural disasters. The group works with individuals, organizations, schools and companies to recruit members, students and employees to help organizations such as Habitat for Humanity that need volunteers. A few of the areas the group has been to: the Gulf Coast, Joplin, Tuscaloosa and Colorado Springs.
Just this year alone, Charlene has been to Moore, OK to help with debris removal. From there she went to Mississippi to continue with Katrina relief and currently is in New Jersey helping with Superstorm Sandy recovery. Charlene takes on part time jobs to free herself up time to volunteer with disaster relief for weeks at a time.
I discovered Charlene’s group while on twitter and started reading her story. I knew immediately I wanted to reach out to her. Charlene and I share a similar heart for disaster relief. I was on the radio covering the Alabama tornadoes in 2011. That coverage changed me. I wanted to immediately drive to Cullman. Arab, Tuscaloosa…. and help anyone I could. I put my energy into becoming certified through my church in disaster relief.
I talked to Charlene briefly on the phone and I was ready to jump in the car and join her in New Jersey! She was so inspiring. I have a feeling we might be working side by side one day, providing what we can to help those who have lost so much. I asked her to share a random story and I will finish this article with that.
“On May 20, 2013, I was sitting in the Corona (CA) public library planning this trip (to NJ), among other things. But I was in a very bad place emotionally. I was on the verge of quitting disaster relief.
I was in conversation with God telling Him that I can’t keep doing this, I need a full time job! As I sat there fighting back tears, waiting for Him to respond, I began receiving texts and emails asking when I was going to put together a group to go to Oklahoma.
I had no idea what anyone was talking about because I was so caught up in the despair of being “insufficiently funded.” I finally went to the internet to see what was going on and then the tears came.
There were children trapped in a school! Now I’m crying because I have to get to Okalahoma. Though I’d been doing this for as long as I have been I was finally all in…I officially became the post-storm chaser I’d claimed to be and I had HIS answer.”
“It is so sad to see major catastrophes. But if anything good can be said about them is that a disaster has a way of bringing people together in ways that may not have been seen as possible. In many ways this country is divided right now but I see unity in disasters. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, we all need a hug and a prayer. So we’re gonna mess around and become the ‘United’ States of America. No matter how much wind and water come to try to destroy us, Hope Floats.” – Charlene Marie King
Information on The Not Forgotten Project:
Web Address: http://www.thenotforgottenproject.org/