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Kentucky Couple Opens Camp to Hurricane Victims

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Kentucky Couple Opens Camp to Hurricane Victims

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Kentucky Couple Opens Camp to Hurricane Victims

Kentucky Couple Opens Camp to Hurricane Victims

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Mark and Colleen Anderson are housing displaced Gulf Coast residents in their summer youth camp in western Kentucky. Reporter Gary Scott profiles this small-town couple that's making a big difference in the lives of more than 100 hurricane victims.


Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina are now living across the country, from Maine to California. Today, we're visiting a small western Kentucky town where 116 people from New Orleans were offered a home just days after the storm hit. Their new home is a private, non-profit youth camp run by a husband and wife team in the city of Murray, Kentucky. Gary Scott of member station WKMS has the story.

GARY SCOTT reporting:

Mark and Colleen Anderson are in their late 40s. The upbeat couple have been married over 20 years and they have three kids. At the camp, Colleen is fondly referred to as `the boss,' Mark is `the other boss.'

Mr. MARK ANDERSON (Youth Camp Owner): My wife and I both, we work 24/7. And when one falls down on something, the other one picks up and runs with it.

SCOTT: Running with it consists of cooking the meals, seeing nearly 60 kids off to school each morning, getting folks back and forth to interviews and doctors' appointments, delivering mail, helping search for missing family members, fixing toilets and wading through over 200 phone messages daily. Colleen readily admits they couldn't do it alone.

Mrs. COLLEEN ANDERSON (Youth Camp Owner): It's been very, very busy, but I have wonderful volunteers. Too numerous to mention everybody, but the main ones that are out here pretty much every day, several days a week, if it weren't for them, we wouldn't get it done.

SCOTT: Food, clothing, transportation, money and almost unlimited supplies have all come from private donations. A local window manufacturer has fitted the camp's primitive cabins for new windows, another business has offered to put in heat and air units and evacuees now enjoy cable TV and Internet access. Support has also come from the Andersons' children. Maggie Anderson(ph) is in the eighth grade.

MAGGIE ANDERSON: I volunteer in the kitchen, and I even watch some of the kids if the parents need a break from them.

SCOTT: Although the 14-year-old is happy to help, she reluctantly admits it's changed her daily routine.

MAGGIE ANDERSON: Well, we don't get to see our parents that much. Usually when we want to talk to them, they're busy.

SCOTT: The Andersons both with they had more uninterrupted time with their family. However, they're proud of the way their kids pitch in. Fifteen-year-old Molly Anderson.

MOLLY ANDERSON: I go to my brother's football games now and stuff, and I've never been to his football games. I'm trying to help him out 'cause everyone's being too busy for him, and he needs a lot of attention.

SCOTT: Pitching in during disasters is not new to Mark and Colleen Anderson. They've traveled to other hurricane relief efforts in the past. This is the first time they've served survivors in their hometown. Mark Anderson says the experience has taught his family an important lesson.

Mr. ANDERSON: Human nature has still got a lot going for itself, a lot more faith and trust and loving out there and respect of people that, you know, you kind of felt like was gone. If more people would do this and care about their fellow man, then this country would be a lot better off if we worried about each other and quit worrying about ourselves.

SCOTT: Just over 50 evacuees still call the camp home for now. The Andersons say they plan to keep the camp open until every evacuee finds a place to go. The Andersons are on standby to receive over 100 Hurricane Rita evacuees from Texas. For NPR News, I'm Gary Scott in Murray, Kentucky.

CHADWICK: I'm Alex Chadwick. NPR's DAY TO DAY continues.

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