Pen Pals -- Letters between children who want to help and those who need the help--Plus a TLC mom /advisor's emails from the shelters in Louisiana

By TLC Artist Kenshondra, Age 10, Istrouma Baptist Church Shelter, Baton Rouge, LA

These are just a few of the letters and pictures that were exchanged between children in Iowa who want to help hurricane survivors and children in a Gulf Coast Shelter. TLC advisor / moms Anne Ginther (IA) and Gretchen Hansen (MN) went to the River Center and Istrouma Baptist Church shelters in Baton Rouge, LA. Anne Ginther hand delivered the survivors' responses (a few pictured below) on October 12th at The Academy in Des Moines, IA and Eason Elementary in Waukee, IA. We are exploring the idea of making a book out of this exchange with a portion of the proceeds going toward the TLC movement/charities. Who better to explain to kids what it's like to be in a hurricane than kids? Please see the comments below all the artwork from Anne, written while she was working the shelters in Baton Rouge.

Dear Friends,

Thank you for sending this letter. It makes me think about what you said. But I know you all are happy that there aren't any hurricanes where you are. And I really appreciate you caring about me and my family and I wish you all good luck. But I did not lose any of my family members. And here is a joke: What did the cow say to the chicken? MOO-VE out of my way.



(She's TLC Artist Kenshondra's sister)

Jermanyne (who wrote the letter below) is pictured above with his brothers and TLC Mom / Advisors Gretchen Hansen and Anne Ginther. They were a lot of fun. James (one of Jermayne's brothers above) is hilarious! And he sure did love the M&Ms that the TLC children in Iowa bought for him with the donation from Wal-Mart!

Dear Nick,

I was asleep. The window shattered. I got a cut on my arm. Momma woke us up. I was a little sleepy. Then I was scared. All the windows on the house were busted. I was at my auntie's house and Katrina blew my house away.

I went back to see my house--the only thing left was the floor, the washing machine and dryer and two rooms. I didn't get any of my stuff. My sister wanted her shoes but her room was messed up. The big screen TV got wet. We put mattresses by the window.

I go to school here--in the 6th grade. I like it at the shelter... but not school.

by a TLC Artist in Iowa

It says: "Don't worry--My dad has an idea."
By a TLC Artist in Kindergarten at Eason Elementary, Waukee, Iowa

An excerpt from a 14 year old girl's letter from a Baton Rouge Shelter:

I'm glad you are writing to me. I feel better with these letters. I feel like I have a new friend.

TLC Artist, Wilson T. drew the above picture. He also wrote the letter below. I have also transcribed it below:

Dear Survivor,

I've never experienced what you have and I hope I never will. Having everything you love torn away from you in a rush of water... I can only imagine. But I bet you're sick of hearing "I'm sorry" because how can being "sorry" help if the person does nothing? I believe that it is the obligation of those who "have but don't need" to give to those who "need but don't have." So I'm offering my help; OUR help. My school has started a program called the TLC, it stands for Trick or treat for Levee Catastrophe. On Halloween we are going to trick or treat for funds instead of candy for money to help.


Wilson T.

The above "stationary" was made by a 6 year old TLC artist in a Baton Rouge shelter. TLC's CEO used it to write a thank-you letter to Iowa's Governor for his support. Governor Vilsack now has it proudly displayed on his fridge.

By a TLC Artist/Writer in a Baton Rouge shelter

The following are some excerpts from a letter written by a 10-year-old in one of the shelters in Louisiana:

The hurricane was spooky. I was in the project. The roof came off the project and the rain came in. And we thought the water would come to the door. We had to put the baby in a bucket and I walked through the water to the Winn Dixie (store). It got broken in to. I was sad.

...There are MP (Military Police--actually National Guard) Men with guns. They make me feel sad and scared. Just because they have guns. But some of them are nice. One of them gave my friend a Dr. Pepper.

... Thank you for the letter.

By TLC Artist Kayla, The Academy, Iowa

By TLC Artist Annie, Eason Elementary, Iowa

By TLC artist Katie, Eason Elementary, Iowa

More letters and comments to come.


Blogger Anne in the Heartland said...

Hello from the River Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

TLC Advisors are here at the shelter with our precious cargo of letters.

The people here are so welcoming, and the children so loving.

When you walk in, it looks like a regular stadium... but then you see the military. Fatigues, rifles. But you know what else? Smiles. Jokes. Everyone is like a big family down here. We were quickly welcomed as one of their own.

We got to play with about 50 children all afternoon. I now understand why they were so desperate for help here. These children are craving one on one attention. I sat down to read a book to a little girl, and next thing I knew I had 3 kids on my lap and two on my shoulders.

We read Dora the Explorer with great enthusiasm. The kids yelled, "Swiper No Swiping!"

And I personally want to adopt my new eight year old girl friend Arianna. She's the most beautiful little girl. Smart. And the cutest cheeks you've ever seen. We played like we were cooking. She was the master chef. We baked "Sweet Potato Pie" and made Collard Greens. And she said with great effect, "and afterward we can have some candy."

I took her in a corner and slipped her some chocolate.

I gave her some princess stickers and this sweet girl took the first one and put it on my badge. I told her she doesn't need to share, she can have them all. She said, "No. Now you'll have the prettiest name tag of all."

She took me into the stadium to meet her mom. We stopped at a cafeteria area where Arianna grabbed two meals one for her, and one for her mom. Then we walked hand in hand through countless rows of cots. Some people sleeping, some playing cards.

We got back to her mom's cot, and it looked like she and her mom and grandma had created a little home of cots. They actually made it look a little homey. It struck me that a big part of it was the sheets and blankets. While there were certainly a number of military issue type blankets, this family had selected things that look like you'd find in a home.

The Red Cross invited us to stay in the shelter tonight. So they took us down to the basement to get our own cots, pick out blankets and pillows. I got to see the items that the Red Cross provides to hurricane survivors. Now I'll be sleeping in these sheets.

Let's face it, while none of us would want to have to be here, The Red Cross along with many other organizations here have offered some comforts of home.

Of course, you can't help but want to give more.

Me? I want to give Arianna a bunch of princess clothes, some kitchen toys, etc.

Perhaps I'll ask her tomorrow what she misses. We've only just begun to get to know them. And we already love them to pieces.

I'm off to bed. The survivors sleep on the floor (in cots) of the arena. We sleep in a seperate area upstairs. It's kind of strange, as it is a large room, with rows and rows of cots and a giant window that looks down on all of the survivors. It's surreal, you feel like a spectator, and yet you're right in the middle of it. And with these kids, it's definitely a contact sport!

We obviously have electricity. I'm emailing you from the Red Cross command center within the River Center. There's air conditioning that most feel is way too cold at night. A native Minnesotan and current Iowan... I'm right at home.

Tomorrow we're thinking of having a TLC job fair here at the shelter. These kids want TLC jobs. Perhaps some of our corporate stationary will be a TLC artist original.

We're also going to form a TLC creative team of kids. We'll sit in a circle, share stories of what it was like to go through the hurricane and the shelter experience, and then we'll write a fictional book about a child going through this, combining all their stories. Of course, our TLC illustrators will be on hand.

There's a school here on site--some kids go here from 9:00 am to about 2:00 pm, and others go to public schools in the area. It's up to the parents.

Former President Bill Clinton was just here yesterday, and everyone has been telling us their stories. "I hugged him." "I gave him a hearty hand shake." It was a big deal.

Well... there are some random thoughts from one TLC Advisor who is thrilled to be here to help, and yet feels so small in the enormity of this catastrophe. I guess we all just keep going--one hug, one smile at a time.

Oh--I want to add something else. On the way from TX to LA (we had to change planes in TX) everyone around us had a story to tell.

One woman had neck surgery two days before the hurricane hit. She sat next to us, telling us that she was on her way to survey her home for the first time since the storm. She didn't expect to find much. Similar stories everywhere. People exchanging information on how to get FEMA info, or signing up with a TARP company to cover the gaping holes in their homes.

I've been keeping a video diary and I can't wait to share it with some of the TLC kids. I met a police dog on bomb sniffing patrol. I met a really cute cat who was rescued from the hurricane, who looked as happy as she could be, sunning herself as though she had no care in the world.

Well... I best get to bed... I've got a full day of playing scheduled for tomorrow.

9:37 PM  
Blogger Anne in the Heartland said...

Hi TLC kids across the country!

We're now at a different shelter in Baton Rouge. This one is at a church and in many ways feels very different than the one at the River Center. I'll write more about that later, just wanted to leave you a couple of quick notes.

First, I don't always have acces to a computer (and I have NO access to email right now--until Monday night or Tuesday!) So if you've sent me something, that's the only reason I haven't replied.

Yesterday it was clear we were desperately needed here. When we arrived, children were lined up outside the door to play in the playroom, but the shelter had no people to staff it. TA-DA! TLC mom advisors were here to save the day!

We opened the play room and had a BALL with the kids! Several of the older boys and girls played video games. There are about 4 or 5 fairly large TVs hooked up to some pretty cool games.

And this room is a playroom of some sorts for the church, so it was a WONDERFUL atmosphere! Lots of fun paintings on the walls-- bright and cheery. Lots of toys, TONS of books, coloring books, crayons, etc.

You'll be happy to know several of the children read through your letters yesterday. Some responded in kind, others decided to color pictures back to you. They are making big signs to for me to take back to The Academy and Eason!

I'll write more later... I just wanted to check in and say hi. Plus, Talia's mom called me at 5:15 am to add one thing to the website--"As Seen on The Today Show and MSNBC." Because guess, what? A Today Show crew is at Talia's house right now, and they're airing a segment at 7:30 central time this morning!

TLC has also received a lot of coverage from MSNBC (thank you to them!) and we have received many calls and emails from around the country from kids and parents just like you who want to help! Hooray!

The best way you can help is to go to the job board, hire yourself, and get going! :) And of course, get out there on Halloween night and Trick or Treat for the Levee Catastrophe!

I'll check back when I can. The kids at this shelter wanted me to pass along a BIG THANK YOU and lots of hugs. So you'll be getting your hugs when we get back!

Thanks again everyone!


TLC mom /advisor

3:41 AM  
Anonymous Nav in Cali said...

Hey! Well I want to start off by saying I really think what you guys are doing is wonderful! Not too many kids think for other people so I want you all to know I really appreciate all the effort you're making. I also want to tell all of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, or for that matter any other natural disaster that I really respect them for having the courage for going through such a devastation. I know I would be lying if I said I understand how it feels so I won't say that, but I really admire you all. I am praying for you all and I hope that you guys can raise the million dollars. It is a great thing that Talia came on CNN because otherwise I wouldn't have even heard about T.L.C.! Anyways, I wish you all the best of luck, and keep up the good work!!!

7:57 PM  

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