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Many still homeless in Mexico

The border town of Piedras Negras is receiving aid from all over the region.

BY HEATHER MOYER | BALTIMORE | April 20, 2004


"No more clothes are needed."

—Merry Elmore


Two weeks after flash floods killed 36 people and destroyed entire neighborhoods, the border town of Piedras Negras is receiving substantial aid from all over the region.

Within hours of the floods, Yolanda Cox of University United Methodist Church in San Antonio, Texas, called up her contacts all over the city and state to help round up donations for those in need in Mexico.

Since the floods, Cox has been to Piedras Negras twice with truckloads of donations including clothing, baby formula, medical supplies, and thousands of pounds of food. Cox said during both visits, all the donations were distributed within 20 minutes.

She's returning again this Friday with another shipment of supplies. "The damage in the city is so extensive," said Cox, who also serves as co-director of The Cross Health Ministries in San Antonio. "So many people are homeless, and other communities close to Piedras Negras were also affected."

Her connection to Piedras Negras started before the flooding, when she was helping volunteers from Georgia's "Hands and Feet Ministries" with the details of building an orphanage in town. When the flooding started, those volunteers switched from construction to rescue and relief. She said they serve as valuable assets to the city and to her when she needs to know what supplies to bring. Cox said the San Pablo United Methodist Church in Piedras Negras also helps distribute the donated supplies and assess needs.

Shortly after the floods, Cox also got in contact with Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison Heriberto Martinez. A truck full of CWS health kits, comfort kits, school kits, baby kits and blankets will arrive Tuesday in Piedras Negras. Another two semi-trucks full of miscellaneous supplies will arrive this week as well, said Cox.

The needs have shifted since the flooding, said Merry Elmore of Hands and Feet Ministries. "No more clothes are needed," said Elmore, who recently moved to Piedras Negras to work full-time for Hands and Feet. "They're now asking for more food, diapers and infant formula."

Elmore said medical supplies are always welcome, especially now that the waters have receded and communicable diseases can surface. "All the people living in close-quarters contributes to more sicknesses, as does all of the muddy conditions and the bacteria left behind by the flood," she said. "So we need everything from antibiotics to regular cough and cold medicines."

She added that Hands and Feet Ministries is even working on furniture donations for the survivors who lost everything in the flood. "So many people's entire homes were destroyed," she said. "To get a grasp of that, I tell people to look around their own homes and think about what's there. Some survivors have nothing."

Cox said a local Piedras Negras agency that organizes an upcoming yearly children's festival recently asked her for toys. "We really try to network with others to see what's needed," she said.

Both Cox and Elmore agreed that the response received from people across the U.S. is amazing. "I live by a little bakery that gives us huge bags of bread whenever we go down to Piedras Negras," said Cox. "I even had a man call me from New York who wanted to know how to donate. I received a $100 check from him later that week. The word is getting out. Lots of people are asking 'What can I do?' - and that's wonderful."

The Piedras Negras recovery will continue for a significant time, said Cox. "We plan to go for as long as we have donations to take," she said. "We'll keep a close eye on what's needed."


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