Chico gets a Southern sister

The city of Chico has a sister in Mississippi named Pascagoula. Sort of.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors, in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, started a sister city program and Chico has been matched up with the Gulf Coast town trying to pick up and put together the pieces of its former self.

Mayor Scott Gruendl said he learned of the program when he initially requested Chico to be linked with either New Iberia, La. or Hattisburg, Miss., because there are a couple of transplants from those towns now living here.

“We ended up with Pascagoula and it turns out we have people living in Chico who were born and raised in Pascagoula,” Gruendl said this week.

Pascagoula, population 28,000, is made up of 11,000 homes over a 15-square-mile area. Nearly a quarter of the residents—6,000—are now living in temporary shelters. The mayor is asking for local community organizations to follow suit and adopt equivalent organizations in the Mississippi city.

According to a city press release, there is an urgent need for water, formula, baby goods, children’s clothes, school and office supplies and cleaning supplies. The city of Chico wanted to send some computer equipment, Gruendl said, but most of the city’s spare hardware was in poor condition.

So the city is looking to donate two municipal trucks to the cause. Gruendl said he’s already had two people volunteer to drive them back—Katie Connett, executive vice-president of the Chico State Associated Students and Dan Cosio, Butte College Associated Students president.

The local United Way has agreed to be the fiscal agent for fund-raising and checks can be made out to Sister City Fund, c/o United Way of Butte and Glenn counties.

Pascagoula’s greatest need is for temporary housing because the Federal Emergency Management Administration trailers have yet to arrive.

Among some of the odder requests are those from the parks and recreation department, including “Special Events Costumes of the Easter Bunny, Santa, Mrs. Clause, Elves (4) and Uncle Sam.”