Minister donates camper for shelter after Andrew

September 15, 1992|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,Staff Writer

After Hurricane Andrew destroyed much of South Florida, the Rev. Susan Duchesneau looked at her own Glen Burnie back yard and saw her camping trailer in a different light.

No longer was it the home-away-from-home for her family on camping trips to Solomon's Island and Shad Landing. In her eyes, the 21-foot vehicle looked more like a permanent home for a family suddenly left homeless and stripped of all possessions.

After watching a television news story about an Essex woman who wanted to give hurricane victims her pop-up trailer, the Ferndale United Methodist Church pastor realized that her trailer could be used the same way.

Cindy Debrouse, the Essex woman, organized a statewide campaign to deliver trailers to Florida. She sent her own camper plus 22 others -- mobile homes, trailers, Winnebagos and pop-ups -- south through a volunteer army of tow-truck and tractor-trailer drivers. Now, they will deliver the Duchesneau family's trailer, too.

It didn't take long for Mrs. Duchesneau and her husband, Gary, to make up their minds. Their camping trips had become less frequent as their two children grew older and as work demanded more time on weekends. Someday, they hoped to start camping again.

"But that's way off in the future," she said. "This is something people need right now.

"It just seemed like the right thing."

The trailer, which has a full bathroom and kitchen and sleeps five, needed work -- about $400 worth. It also needed household items, such as linens, pots and pans, and food. Soon after Mrs. Duchesneau appealed to her congregation and the community for help, she received more than she ever imagined.

A special church collection brought in more than $400.

Last week, members of the Ferndale congregation and nearby residents brought in pots and pans, dishes, linens, towels, pillows, cleaning supplies, cots, jackets and food to stock the cabinets.

Gillette Tire Service in Glen Burnie provided new tires, at cost, and mounted them for free. Leo's Vacation Center donated a new water pump and Happy Travelers, another camping supply store, donated a new battery.

"The economy being what it is, folks really related to this," Mrs. Duchesneau said. "One family out of thousands that are homeless may not be much, but to the congregation it was special.

"It felt like adopting a family, even though we may never know their names."

The church will enclose a letter with the trailer, letting the family know where the trailer came from.

"Maybe they'll be in touch with us," Mrs. Duchesneau said. "That would be wonderful."

Ms. Debrouse said tractor-trailer drivers will deliver the campers from Queen Anne's Medical Center on the Eastern Shore to St. Mary's Hospital in Dade County, Fla. The hospital will match them with the neediest families. An estimated 200,000 people were left homeless after the hurricane last month.

The trailers will become the property of the Florida families until they no longer need them, Ms. Debrouse said. Then, the trailers will return to Maryland to house the state's homeless.

Mrs. Duchesneau said she still needs more food, toys, books, hand tools, magazines, stationary, stamps, sleeping bags, towels, cookware and personal items.

Karen Biggs, who lives near the Ferndale church, dropped off linens and canned goods yesterday.

"They need it bad down there," she said. "You have to put yourself in their place. They have to start all over again. They have nothing.

Ferndale United Methodist Church is at 117 Ferndale Road. The phone number is 761-2880.


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