It began late last week with an e-mail:
“Franklin Elementary School parents Debra Young Krizman and Tom Browne hail from the New Orleans area and have joined together to collect any items you might care to donate to the victims of this disaster. Tom has provided an 18-wheeler trailer and they will be outside of Franklin this weekend to load the trailer with your contributions. Debra writes: These displaced families are in desperate need of: Food (non-perishable), Water, Clothing (all ages), Shoes (all ages), Bedding, Medicines, Formula, Diapers, Toys & Games, Stuffed Animals, Books, Household items, and so much more. It’s a great time of year to clean your closets of those outgrown clothes and what better reason than to offer them to victims of such a horrifying disaster.
“PLEASE, if you have anything you’d like to donate, drop it by the trailer which can be found on Idaho Street near the Franklin playground…PLEASE PASS THIS EMAIL ALONG TO ANYONE WHO MIGHT WANT TO CONTRIBUTE.”
By noon on Sunday, the line of stacked boxes stretched a block down Idaho. By Sunday night, three 50-foot 18 wheelers were completely full of boxes, and people were still arriving to drop off more supplies for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Franklin parents whose daughters are classmates, Debra Young Krizman and Thomas Browne are Louisiana natives. Devastated by the catastrophic blows to New Orleans and the surrounding area and the tragic plight of the thousands of people who lost everything, they sent out the e-mail and, on Friday, set up a staging area behind Franklin School at Idaho and 24th, with the support of Franklin’s principal, Pat Samarge.
Very soon, the cars started coming – from Santa Monica but also from San Diego, Laguna Hills, Woodland Hills, Torrance, Agoura, and points beyond.
After they emptied their cars, many donors stayed on to help sort and pack. Seemingly spontaneously, they organized stations for clothing, food, toys, and toiletries.
Bikes, wheelchairs, strollers, and mattresses were lined up waiting to be loaded into the trucks. Here and there, entire families worked together – with the kids marking the boxes and the parents packing.
By Sunday, the Franklin PTA e-mail system alerted families that the trucks were full, but volunteers were needed on Monday to finish loading the supplies and to donate money to pay the estimated $8,400 fuel cost.
Browne’s Burbank-based company, Tomzilla Lighting, donated the trucks, and he will join the caravan with a generator for a cousin’s house, which is now home to 25 displaced family members.
Six 50-foot trucks left Santa Monica Monday afternoon about 2 p.m. They expect to reach Slidell, Louisiana by Saturday. St. Tammany Parish will arrange for their distribution.
Krizman and her daughter were visiting their family in Louisiana when the hurricane warnings were issued. They left just before it hit.
Browne’s whole family was in the disaster zone. He was reminded, he said, of his grade school lesson….”We the people…of, by and for the people…” and had to act. He called Krizman, said he had a truck and suggested that they work together to collect supplies.
They spoke of the man who handed them $800 for fuel costs, and a little girl who handed over the contents of her piggy bank to help pay to get the boxes to New Orleans.
One of Franklin’s Girl Scout troops cleaned out its bank account, donating $600 to the Red Cross and spending $600 on baby supplies for the caravan.
A Franklin neighbor appeared with two chests of ice cold water and soft drinks for the volunteers, and an unidentified person had dozens of pizzas delivered to the volunteers.
Krizman reported that $15,000 had been contributed to cover fuel costs, but couldn’t estimate the cash value of the six truckloads of goods, clothes and food.By late Monday afternoon, the trucks were gone. The trash had been neatly bagged. A banner thanking people for their generosity that hung on the fence was the only evidence that something quite remarkable had taken place there over the weekend.