Missouri Baptists establishing shelters for Katrina victims, more volunteers headed to Gulf
By Don Hinkle
September 7, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY – Churches and entities affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) are expecting to receive nearly 2,000 evacuees from hurricane-devastated New Orleans in coming days.
Approximately 175 evacuees from the New Orleans Convention Center arrived around 9 p.m. on Sept. 4 at the Black River Baptist Association camp known as Camp McClanahan near Kennett. Earlier in the week about 20 people, who had their own transportation, arrived the Charleston Baptist Association Camp.
The youth retreat camps are among 18, owned by local Missouri Baptist associations, being made available to the American Red Cross, which is in charge of relief aid operations. The camps have kitchens, beds, showers and latrines. It is anticipated that more camps will become available should local Red Cross chapters request them.
In addition, Missouri Baptists have provided one feeding unit that is capable of feeding up to 3,000 meals a day in Hahnville, La., about 20 minutes west of downtown New Orleans. It is being manned by 20 volunteers from the Southeast Missouri region.
Missouri Baptists have also dispatched the Southeast Missouri chainsaw unit with about 10 volunteers and a shower unit from Jefferson Baptist Association near St. Louis to First Baptist Church, McComb, Miss. A second unit from near Springfield is preparing to leave in the next few days.
Many Missouri Baptist churches have begun collecting blankets, toiletries, diapers, baby formula and food to send to the Gulf Coast. However, Missouri Baptist disaster relief workers at the Missouri camps are not yet receiving food, noting they have sufficient supplies for now. They say they will issue a call for more food later.
Officials say for now it is best to donate money in support of the Missouri camps and for relief work on the Gulf Coast. Officials say monetary donations are best so relief workers may purchase food — in bulk – based on the needs at their particular location. They also note it is more efficient for relief volunteers who are preparing meals for large groups of people all at once to, for example, open one 10-pound can of green beans rather than cases of 16-ounce cans.
Monetary donations may be sent to the Missouri Baptist Convention, 400 East High St., Jefferson City, Mo. 65101; through the local Baptist associational offices where the camps are located; or through the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. Unlike the monetary donations made to the American Red Cross, which takes 15 percent off the top to cover administrative expenses, 100 percent of the money donated through Missouri Baptist or Southern Baptist entities goes directly to those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
It is anticipated that the evacuees will stay at the Missouri Baptist camps for two to six months until temporary housing can be obtained for them.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Under Secretary for Rural Development Thomas Dorr visited Cape Girardeau Sept. 5 to speak with Red Cross officials and representatives of the Missouri Baptist Convention about an ongoing partnership with USDA Rural Development, which provides shelter to survivors left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.
“It is essential that safe housing be found for displaced residents as quickly as possible,” Dorr said. “USDA is pleased to partner with the Southeast Missouri Red Cross and the Missouri Baptist Convention to help make this happen.”
So far, USDA Rural Development has identified at least 1,000 vacant housing units in Missouri that are available to house displaced residents.
Missouri is one of a number of states where Rural Development rental units and homes are being made available to hurricane survivors. Large numbers of displaced residents from the hurricane are expected to arrive in Missouri in coming weeks. As they arrive, they are received by the Red Cross and sent to the Baptist camps. The camps serve as temporary staging areas as families and individuals are moved into available USDA housing.
USDA’s Rural Development also has designated a toll-free number to assist homeowners, renters and others in need of housing assistance. The number is 1-800-414-1226. Information is also available on the USDA web site at: http://www.usda.gov.
Hannibal-LaGrange College (HLG), a Missouri Baptist Convention-affiliated school in Hannibal, is accepting applications from eligible students enrolled at institutions on the Gulf Coast flood areas. HLG is extending registration and enrollment deadlines, as well as waiving application fees and late fees. All admitted students will be enrolled as degree-seeking guest students and will be eligible for all appropriate financial aid and scholarships. Limited space is also available in HLG’s residential halls.
Anyone desiring more information may call the admissions office at 1-800-HLG-1119. HLG is also planning relief trips to the Gulf Coast over Fall Break. They are currently accepting donations that will be sent to the affected areas.
Red Cross officials are discouraging people from taking evacuees into their homes unless they are family or close friends. As long as the evacuees are at shelters or MBC type camps run by the Red Cross, the Red Cross assumes liability for their well-being, particularly when it comes to their health care. However, if evacuees stay in private homes, the homeowner may become liable should proper health care not be provided.
Also, evacuees are being encouraged to register with the Red Cross which is compiling a national data bank to help displaced family members locate loved ones from whom they have been separated. If evacuees are taken into private homes they will not be registered in the national data bank, making it more difficult to find their loved ones. Officials said some evacuees may want to avoid registering with the Red Cross data bank because law enforcement authorities are monitoring. They warn that if an evacuee is not willing to register, it may be unwise to take them into a home. They also note that there may be cultural differences that could pose problems given that evacuees could be in someone’s home for up to six months. The North American Mission Board is collecting names, however, of families wishing to open their homes to evacuees.
Missouri Baptist Disaster Relief officials note there have been many acts of kindness already extended to the camps. One church donated 3,000 Pop-Tarts, the local electric company has told Black River Baptist Association that it will not be charged for electricity as long as its camp is used as a Red Cross shelter and Lambert’s, the popular restaurant chain known for tossing rolls to its customers that has a location in Sikeston, provided free dinners to some evacuees Sept. 4, and the Dunklin County Sheriff’s Department is providing on-site security for the Black River camp.
Individual Missouri Baptist churches are opening their pocketbooks as well. For example, Second Baptist Church, Springfield, took a special offering Sept. 4 collected $53,000, while Concord Baptist Church added a donation of $10,000.