‘We can’t just sit by and watch’

Published 12:57 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Like many people across the country and around the world, Samantha Lovelace of the Pacolet Valley paid attention when she learned of the April 20 explosion of an oil-drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Hearts broke, tears fell and tempers flared as crude oil poured into the Gulf, a region rich with wildlife, marine industry and countless delicate ecosystems.

Lovelaces emotions rose to the surface as she observed this crisis, and she knew that she had to do something.

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I have been compelled since the minute I found out about this to work, write constantly in order to make any impact on this sickening disaster, Lovelace said in a May 31 installment of her blog (www.samsdayoff.blogspot.com).

She is particularly passionate about the oil spill cleanup because she hails originally from the Gulf, specifically Hattiesburg, Miss.

Lovelace quickly contacted A Matter of Trust, an ecological public charity concentrating on manmade surplus, natural surplus and eco-education. In other words, this nonprofit specializes in linking needs with natural solutions.

In the case of the oil spill, A Matter of Trust is leading the collection of hair booms. Hair booms, as described by media nationwide, are nylon bags filled with hair and fur. Because hair and fur naturally absorb oil, these booms are invaluable in the oil spill cleanup. (Watch this series for more information on hair booms: how they are made, how they work, how they can be recycled.)

After contacting A Matter of Trust, Lovelace decided to join the volunteer effort on the front lines of the clean-up. She raised some funds and found a travel partner, Quincy Jackson of Polk County, and together they headed to the Gulf on June 1. Local videographer Chris Riddle later joined the team.

According to Lovelaces blog, the teams mission statement was not spelled out for this trip, but she found a focus in the words of one Gulf fisherman named Tom Young. Young said, I was just sitting here thinking our way of life is over. Its the end, the apocalypse, and no one outside of these few parishes really cares. They say they do, but they dont do nothing but talk. Wheres the action? Wheres the person who says these are real people, real people with families and they are hurting?

Lovelace responded by saying, We cant just sit by and watch people like [Young] and his family hurt. We will help be his voice outside the parish, and strong arms inside the parish, too. Whatever we can do.

Over the next several weeks, the Tryon Daily Bulletin will print a series of articles chronicling Lovelaces journey to the Gulf. These articles will follow her experience and will highlight aspects of the oil spill and clean-up efforts including nonprofit organizations that need help, wisdom and warning from experts with previous oil spills, and stories from citizens living on the coast. &bsp;

Political preferences and opinions aside, one thing is certain: this disaster is affecting real people, U.S. citizens with families and friends and jobs. The crude oil that is covering the waters, the vegetation and the wildlife will not go away overnight, or even by the end of the summer, and these citizens need assistance. &bsp;

Concerned citizens can write their Congressional representatives and state senators to raise awareness of the needs in the Gulf and to ask for assistance and support:

Congressman Heath Shuler, 512 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 or 356 Biltmore Ave. Suite 400, Asheville, N.C. 28801

Senator Kay Hagan, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 or State Headquarters, 701 Green Valley Rd. Suite 201, Greensboro, N.C. 27408.

For more information, you can follow Lovelace’s blog at www.samsdayoff.blogspot.com.