From Chico to Katrina

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, volunteers from Chico are going wherever they’re needed. Some are headed to the places that were hardest-hit.

Mickey Taylor, along with Chicoan Angela Cook was sent this week to Montgomery, Ala., where they joined 300 other volunteers in a “staff shelter” waiting to be deployed.

Taylor contacted the News & Review via cell phone from the old Kmart building that was serving as the headquarters for all Red Cross activity following the hurricane that tore through the Gulf Coast two weeks ago, killing thousands and leaving more than two million homeless.

For Taylor, who served 11 years as executive director of the Esplanade House transitional shelter before resigning a year ago, volunteering was a chance to put her talents to use in another setting.

When the hurricane hit, “I, just like many people, saw what was going on and decided to volunteer. … It seems to be the call on my life to work with disadvantaged people.”

“I told them, ‘You just use me any way you want.'”

She said the Red Cross is doing an impressive job matching volunteers with their areas of expertise. Taylor expects to work in family services, doing intake at shelters.

“We could go many places in the Gulf—Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana, Houston…”

As Taylor talked with the News & Review, her name was paged over an intercom. She was being sent to Richland, Miss., which is north of New Orleans.

Red Cross volunteers serve three-week stints. “That’s about all people can take because conditions are so horrific and people are in such traumatic states,” Taylor said.

Cook, in an interview held a few days before she left for the Gulf, said she joined the Red Cross because she wanted to help and was between jobs, leaving her “more time than money right now.”

After about a week’s worth of training classes and interviews, Cook flew to Montgomery on Sunday, where she was processed and given an assignment. On Tuesday, she traveled to Gulfport, Miss., apparently to work at a shelter there. Check out her online diary at