The mission began late on Wednesday, August 31, when an InfoMart employee relayed the following to her associates: her sister and brother-in-law were stranded in a home in New Orleans with extended family including several children. In response, InfoMart employees and the community immediately began buying food, clothes and other necessities for this group. However, it was quickly realized that an immediate rescue mission was the highest priority.
Calls went out to Louisiana police, the Coast Guard, Congressman Phil Gingrey’s office, GEMA, Naval Air Station Atlanta’s Captain Sean King, and various community leaders to coordinate the rescue of the 15 children – ranging in age from seven months to 15 years – and the 15-20 adults still trapped in the home in the devastated Crescent City. Adding to the sense of urgency, it was reported one woman had breast cancer, and needed her treatments, and there were two elderly people and an infant involved.
InfoMart employees jumped into action, renting three passenger vans and a truck for the rescue mission. The convoy – piloted by InfoMart’s founders and a handful of employees – left Marietta at 3:30 p.m. on Friday bound for New Orleans.
“The community has rallied and supported our mission in the most incredible way,” said InfoMart president Tammy Cohen, who was part of the New Orleans convoy. “SA White Oil president Kim Gresh assisted in the logistics of locating fuel, and Mellow Mushroom at Powers Ferry and Panera Bread on Roswell Road donated food when the evacuees arrived. Multiple churches contributed greatly in this effort as well as our community politicians, especially Congressman Gingrey and his staff, and civic leaders who continuously worked to get us there and back safely.”
Once in Marietta, the rescued evacuees spent the night at the Radisson Hotel and were relocated to the Marietta Conference Center and Resort on Sunday night, in rooms discounted (Radisson) and donated (Marietta Conference Center). Today, 24 of the evacuees were moved into transitional housing, courtesy of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia.
While the initial rescue mission is complete, donations for the group’s immediate needs continue to pour in from companies, groups and individuals. A church group provided food for the very tired and hungry evacuees Sunday night and with lunch today. Another local church donated two truckloads of furniture, which arrived this morning. Now the work will begin to secure housing, food and clothing to meet the victims’ long-term needs.
Though the trip to New Orleans was fraught with danger and uncertainty, Cohen stated, “Once we made the decision to make this trip, we never looked back, because we knew rescuing these children and the families stranded was the right thing to do – regardless of the obstacles we faced.”
From the InfoMart convoy, there were many stories to tell; from the two-mile long gas lines and police escorts to cars traveling in the wrong direction on the interstate and military checkpoints, but the most joyous story has to be the rescue of 35 people, two dogs and a cat from New Orleans International Airport.