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Wesley House, United Way and Katrina


Ginger Stevens

Ginger Stevens

It is hard to believe that it has been five years since Katrina…in many ways, it seems like yesterday. To witness and hear testimony of the devastation and despair of humankind on one hand, and yet, to see and feel the strength and survival of the human spirit as this tragic situation brought out the very best in so many, was nothing less than chilling. In the aftermath of Katrina, it was evident that, as we all worked together, God brought healing on so many levels and a new “normal” was, and still is being established for so many. Thank you for this moment of reflection and celebration. It is an honor and a privilege to take part in this time of sharing and commemoration as to the generosity of our United Way donors. The United Way of East MS and West Alabama stood in the gap as a broken Wesley House struggled to keep our doors open for the vast amounts of individuals that desperately needed our help. We were afforded $43,000 to assist us in this endeavor and we used this donation on the purchase pharmaceuticals and food. Medical assistance was offered to those victims who had left their homes with nothing but the clothes they were wearing…no medicines and no prescriptions. Many came to us who had mental and emotional illness and had not been on their medications for two weeks. Here are several medical stories:


#1 I will never forget the young, pregnant mother who showed up with her little toddler in her arms. She was from the New Orleans area and had been homeless before Katrina, but now, well, she had no hope at all for a better “tomorrow”. It was apparent to all that she was suffering from emotional/mental illness from the moment she walked through the door at Wesley. She expressed her fear that her toddler would be taken from her and she loudly expressed her panic and fear as to how she was going to take care of her children and herself. Eventually, she confided to a staff member that she was desperately in need of medicine. She had been diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic and had not had medication for two weeks…this was more than apparent to all present that day. Wesley House was able to locate a physician that could give her proper care and write her prescriptions. We were able to pay for her medications, which were numerous and expensive, thanks to the assistance from the UW.

#2 One afternoon, a family of three came to Wesley House, initially to seek medical attention for their little six year old boy. They were from the MS Gulf Coast and had family on the Alabama border. They were in our community because we had the closest lodgings available. The child was in much pain around the shoulder area. Our clinic referred the family to a local emergency room (we called ahead!) and later in the evening, the family returned.

 The  little boy had suffered a dislocated shoulder, a broken arm and a hairline fracture to his clavicle bone. They had come by to thank us for assisting them in getting proper medical attention and for helping with the medical and pharmaceutical costs for their child.  As we spoke with them, we learned that the also needed assistance with food. Thanks to UW, Wesley was able to help this family in ways in which they absolutely could not have afforded to help themselves.

  #3 We served a Katrina survivor who had come to us for assistance…she was 51 years old, had lost everything in the storm and now, she had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. Wesley House was able to set her up with an appointment in the Wesley Clinic where one of her prescriptions was filled from our pharmacy…a pharmacy that had been stocked with prescription medications from UW donations. Her other prescription was filled through a local pharmacy that works with Wesley House throughout the year. It takes community. Thank you United Way!

 There are hundreds of stories that we could all tell. I was not Executive Director at that time, but I have documentation of helping 2,400 people with food and 269 people with prescriptions just during Phase I alone.

 Our entire Phase II donation went toward the purchase of medications and prescription drugs as we served 422 people.

We could not have provided food and medical treatment for so many without the support of  UW donors. Thank you for your generous hearts. You made a tremendous difference in the lives of so many.

Ginger Grissom Stevens

Wesley House

Visit the Wesley House web site here.

Executive Director

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