Social worker evacuee getting to work

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 13, 2005

VIDALIA &045;&045; She has a cell phone the Vidalia Town Hall donated and a golf cart the River

View RV Park has allowed her to use. On Friday, she borrowed a local minister’s car to get around town.

Sharon Marie Chester knows how to get things for people and that makes the social worker who evacuated from New Orleans just about invaluable to the approximately 200 evacuees staying at Riverview.

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Chester has started daily informational meetings, coordinated lunches for 60 or so people and worked to get supplies and medical care. Friday Chester had Red Cross nurses come by to see some of the evacuees with medical problems.

During a walk across the RV park with her Friday afternoon, numerous residents stopped to ask Chester for information.

She talked with them about the best way to apply for FEMA help and where to get prescriptions filled among other things. She sees her job as making sure people get what they need.

&uot;God’s been providing. It seems like as soon as we need something it comes along almost by itself,&uot; Chester said.

She said one Vidalia resident offered to do whatever he could. She said the only thing she needed right then was to make sure 60 people were fed the next day.

&uot;At first, he said that was more than he could do,&uot; Chester said. &uot;He was just one guy, not a church or group. But he called me back later and said, ‘How about red beans and rice and cornbread?’ He was over here feeding everyone today.&uot;

Evacuees flock to Chester in the campground. Shannon Davis, an evacuee from Waveland, showed Chester pictures of her family’s house, which was destroyed in Hurricane Katrina.

The workers at the park didn’t know what it was getting when Sharon Marie Chester showed up.

&uot;I had to go in there and ruffle a few feathers, I think,&uot; Chester said. &uot;But once they realize what you’re doing they’re happy to help.&uot;

Evacuee John Yazell, from Slidell, La., said River View owner Larry Chauvin has been great to the evacuees.

&uot;He’s a hell of a guy,&uot; Yazell said. &uot;I’ve never met better people than they have here. We’ve been going to campgrounds for years and this is the best we’ve ever stayed in.&uot;

The evacuees staying in RVs and campers at the facility are almost universally grateful for what she and owner Larry Chauvin have done for them.

&uot;It makes me feel great for all these people to come help us out,&uot; evacuee Bonnie Mullet said.

Mullet said the daily meetings Chester has organized have been a great help to those staying in the park, as has Chester’s work getting supplies for those in the RV park.

&uot;She’s been helpful with getting us food and clothes and other stuff,&uot; Mullet said. &uot;When we got my husband he had nothing but they got us stuff. The experience was very nice.&uot;

Perhaps the most important function Chester has provided is as a focal point for evacuees in the park to get information or share their problems with.

Chester, a trained counselor, has spent time with a number of the evacuees to work through their feelings about what they’ve seen and lost.

&uot;They need to talk about it,&uot; Chester said. &uot;Some of them aren’t ready to yet, but they need to. I’ve encouraged many of them to start keeping a journal about it to help them.&uot;