Hurricane Katrina: How Can I Help?

Written by Drew on September 3rd, 2005


In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Lord’s church is working overtime to try to help the victims of the storm. The problem is, many Christians want to help but are not aware of any opportunities that are guaranteed to foster relief. They know about the efforts of the Red Cross and other organizations and support what they are doing, but they would like to channel their funds through churches of Christ located in along Katrina’s devastating path.

Two opportunities have come to my attention recently; both allow Christians to do something meaningful right now.

First, the Summerdale church of Christ in south Alabama is busy housing and feeding refugees from storm-ravaged areas to the south. They are providing food and basic needs and are housing people in the local Hampton Inn and in their own facilities. The Hampton runs between $90 and $100 a night. Also, there are a number of expenses related to sheltering folks in their building. They need one thing: money. As of now, they are not distributing goods such as food and clothing. If you would like to donate to Summerdale’s efforts, send your funds to Summerdale church of Christ, P.O. Box 314, Summerdale, AL 36580. Contributors are assured that some kind of acknowledgement of their gift will be sent, when possible.

Also, Jeff Goff, the director of Maywood Christian Camp in Hamilton, AL, reports that 150 refugees will be arriving at the camp this coming Monday (Labor Day) or Tuesday. All of these are members of the Lord’s church who have lost their homes in the devastation. The camp needs things like toilet paper, toothbrushes, pillows, twin bed sheets, pillow cases, canned food, soap, deodorant, towels, wash cloths, shampoo. Of course, there are many other things that will be needed, e.g., products for hygiene, meal preparation, blankets, baby products, etc. This would be a great project for a church. They could collect the appropriate goods and truck them to Maywood for distribution. For directions click here.

More opportunities will be posted on Drew’s Blog as they come up. I will try to publicize nothing but efforts that are coordinated through the churches of Christ. Stay tuned.

 

5 Comments so far ↓

  1. andy says:

    Other Christian camps are also housing refugees from Katrina’s devastation. I know of Indian Creek, south of Jasper, Alabama, and Mid South Youth Camp in Henderson, Tennessee.

  2. andy says:

    The Goodwood Blvd. church of Christ in Baton Rouge, LA is where Doug Burleson preaches. That good congregation is now housing 130 refugees from the storm. Red Cross will not let them take more and they are turning many away. It takes $1,000.00 per day to feed the visitors for whom they have also made make shift showers. The church is accepting funds to help. FEMA has taken over their facilities. People have brought their dogs and cats and even one bird. Clothes will be needed and the sizes are being taken now. The Goodwood Blvd. church meets just some 75 miles from the greatest devastation.

  3. Drew Kizer says:

    For an ongoing log of the efforts by brethren in the Jackson, Mississippi, area, visit http://www.meadowbrook.org. This is the website for the Meadowbrook church of Christ.

  4. Mark Teske says:

    The eye of Hurricane Katrina went directly over Slidell, Louisiana causing massive destruction in the area. Slidell is a suburb of New Orleans, separated from the city by Lake Pontchartrain, with a population including the surrounding area of around 40,000 people. Ever since the disaster, it has been difficult to get information into or out of the area and many congregations have wanted to help the relief efforts but haven’t been able to contact anyone in the area. Over this past weekend, I traveled there with brethren from several congregations to establish communication with the church in that area and facilitate the start of relief operations. I lived in Slidell for over 12 years, so I am quite familiar with the area, the people, and many of the local officials. We also brought some immediate-need relief supplies and cash into the area to support the relief efforts of several congregations (Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Goodwood Blvd in Baton Rouge and Slidell, Louisiana).

    Baton Rouge was outside of the area of destruction in the storm and relief efforts are well underway at the Goodwood congregation. A special thanks to them for allowing us to use their location as a staging area for our operations, and a pew to lay our heads on (for what little sleep we got during the weekend), a hot shower and a hot cup of coffee. The fellowship hall of their building is serving as a shelter, housing and feeding up to 148 refugees. They have already placed some of their refugees into better housing, and those efforts will continue for the next several weeks. The Goodwood elders are beginning their planning for the next stage of operations, which will probably include getting assistance to the congregations in New Orleans and its suburbs on the south side of Lake Pontchartrain. Logistically, it appears that the best route into New Orleans will be through Baton Rouge for at least the next several months. Goodwood currently has more supplies than they can store and they are trying to divert supplies to other congregations.

    Ocean Springs, Mississippi has already begun distributing supplies into their community. Within the congregation, 18 members’ homes have significant damage from the storm, and volunteers have nearly completed the beginning repairs. Truckloads of supplies were already being distributed on Saturday, when we visited. We were able to determine a need for particular medications and already have those supplies en-route to the congregation. The elders there pointed out the acute need for baby supplies (diapers, formula, baby food, wipes, etc) throughout the affected region.

    Most homes in the Slidell area have sustained damage of some sort or another. Of the areas of the city that we were able to see, the damage ranges from lost roof shingles to several feet of water. One subdivision near Lake Pontchartrain (Eden Isles) was devastated and authorities are not allowing anyone into the area. We learned that searchers had already found 80 bodies in that subdivision alone. We didn’t try to get into the Bayou Liberty area, which also took a devastating blow.
    Approximately 1/3 of the homes in Slidell have trees that have damaged the homes. Land-based telephones are not operational, electricity is limited to very few locations (by generators) and cell-phone service was partially restored on Sunday. There are literally thousands of utility workers in the area working to restore these systems, but don’t know when they will be able to start turning switches on. Telephone systems are struggling, and outgoing calls tend to be more successful than incoming calls.
    Some drug stores and grocery stores have begun selling their non-perishable items from the shelves on a cash-only basis, but their selection is VERY limited. Stores are trying to repair, clean up and open, but often their parking lots are being used for other relief efforts. It will be some time until these resources are fully available.
    Most of the residents fled before the storm hit, and there appeared to be about 20% of the population that had already returned to Slidell. Water is flowing, but has been contaminated and must be boiled before drinking, however it is available for showers, flushing and cleaning. The sewage system is operational. Gasoline is starting to become available at some stations, but lines are VERY long – some are sleeping in their cars overnight in order to be the first in line the next morning. Banks are closed, and all transactions are on a “cash only” basis. Overall, conditions there could be accurately described as “rustic”.

    A small handful of members from the church, including the preacher, have returned to begin the process of assessing the damage and starting the cleanup. The church building has some roof damage over the auditorium, but appears to have no internal damage and may be usable. Those already in the area are trying to check on members and see if there are any immediate needs. Many are still unaccounted for, but most have fled and not yet returned. The sections of the city with the worst damage are restricted to emergency personnel only – we didn’t try to enter any of these areas. Tragically, some members may have lost their lives in the storm, but none have yet been confirmed. It may take weeks to contact all of the members.

    Slidell Relief Efforts

    The Slidell congregation is preparing to serve as a relief center that will distribute relief supplies and serve meals to those most affected in the area. The elders of the congregation are eager to get started at “ground zero”, but it’s taking some time to work through the logistics in such a rustic environment and get things operational. The elders themselves have just been able to contact each other in the last couple of days.

    The congregation has ordered 8 portable storage units for use in supply distribution. They are also working to make their 2-story classroom building into a makeshift dormitory for relief workers. It is hoped that the utilities will be restored during the next week, but no promises are being made.

    To be honest, as the Christians return to Slidell, most of the members will need to spend time cleaning and repairing their own homes and businesses. Effective relief efforts will require much assistance and volunteers from outside the area for several months into the future. Most residents in Slidell have jobs in New Orleans, and the bridge connecting the two cities is gone. Travel to the other side of the lake currently requires a trip around the entire lake (2 hours + at least), so the cities are effectively cut off from each other. The financial impact of this situation on the brethren is unknown at this time.

    What Can I do to help?

    Once the on-site storage is set up, relief supplies will be needed by the truckload. Please wait until you hear that the storage is available before sending supplies. Specific items needed are:
    cleaning supplies (bleach, Lysol, rags, trash bags, paper towels, rubber gloves, etc.) generators (until power is restored) chainsaws food & drinking water personal hygiene supplies baby supplies building supplies (shingles, 1×2’s, plywood, tarps) basic hand tools (hammers, saws, knives, blades, work gloves)

    Volunteers will be needed to staff the distribution center and kitchen. Volunteers by the vanload will be put to good work, and “rustic housing” will be available in the classroom building.

    The relief efforts are being coordinated by the local preacher, Dan Shillinger. The elders of the congregation are themselves all refugees (Gerald Molina in Dallas, Jim Garnett in Alabama, Courtney Cheri in Oklahoma, and Dwight Jones in Laurel, MS).

    Because of the current lack of infrastructure in Slidell, the elders of the congregation have asked me to find a congregation outside of the area to serve as a conduit for funds associated with their relief efforts. To their credit, they would like to keep a full and complete accounting of any funds received, but they do not feel it wise to utilize their limited manpower on location for that purpose. I expect to have the details of where and how to send money to this effort worked out by Wednesday, September 7th and will make that information available to you at that time.

    Travel Advice

    If you wish to come and help as a volunteer, here is some helpful information for you. Most importantly, don’t expect to find any gasoline south of Jackson, MS or East of Baton Rouge – it’s not available. What gasoline that can be found is needed by the locals, so please bring your own supply. Nearly everyone entering the area has portable tanks of gasoline that they bring with them.

    If you enter the area, please bring everything that you need for yourself and don’t expect to buy anything when you get there. What few resources that are available need to be reserved for the locals, and anything that you purchase for yourself will take away from what’s available for them.

    Safety wasn’t a problem for us at all during our entire trip. While criminals have been getting most of the headlines, the city was very peaceful. Law enforcement officials are to be seen everywhere, and criminals are quickly caught. Many neighborhoods have warning signs against looters (e.g. “You loot, we shoot”), but everyone was kind and friendly when we identified ourselves and our intentions.

    We were able to travel the interstate system from Baton Rouge, LA to Ocean Springs, MS without incident. I-10 is effectively closed from the intersection with I-310 all the way to Slidell. We didn’t travel I-59 into Mississippi, so I can’t comment on that highway. As of Monday, residents were beginning to be allowed back on the other side of Lake Pontchartrain for limited purposes, and authorities were expecting traffic to be snarled from Baton Rouge southward for the foreseeable future.

    New Orleans Congregations

    All of the information that I have regarding congregations in New Orleans is based upon second-hand accounts. The Hickory Knoll congregation reportedly has lost about ½ of its roof. The Chalmette congregation’s building is a total loss, and it was uninsured. There are still rescue operations ongoing in the area of the Carrollton congregation, including some people waiting on balconies. New Orleans East, where the Crowder Boulevard congregation is located, was reportedly the hardest hit section of town. There have been no reports about the condition of the building or its members.

  5. Mark Teske says:

    Andy:

    There is a special reward for the man that built that make-shift shower at the Goodwood congregation. Just ask any of the other 3 guys who went with me to Louisiana – they were thankful for that shower. 🙂

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