Churches open doors to hurricane evacuees

BY SUSAN KIM | Southeastern U.S. | October 15, 1999

There they are getting help -- both the simple, immediate kind and help making long-term plans should

they lose everything to one of the biggest storms ever tracked in the Atlantic. Today they may get a hot

meal, a cot, someone to help them care for their children. Tomorrow they may get a plastic tarp for the

roof, or an offer to help them repair their home.

"Right now we live our lives in three-hour increments, waiting for the next advisory to determine what we

should dedicate the next three hours to," said Amy Killgallon, acting president of Florida Interfaiths

Networking in Disaster (FIND).

On Tuesday night shelters in Florida's Orange County -- many of them in local churches -- housed and fed

some 4,000 people. The Florida United Methodist Conference alone activated more than 780 churches as


The Rev. Barry Lane, pastor at the Morrison United Methodist Church, opened the doors to its

multipurpose building on Tuesday. "We've put out the word to our membership to bring their neighbors.

We aren't going to turn anyone away," he said.

Some churches are housing people with special needs. The Azalea Park United Methodist Church in

Orlando is providing shelter to nearly 50 Alzheimer's patients from a retirement home in Palm Bay. Other

Orlando churches have opened their parking lots to boat and camper owners who need a secure place to

park their vehicles.

Even dogs, cats, birds, fish, and snakes are finding at least some church doors open just for them. The

Sanlando United Methodist Church in Longwood opened its doors for pets and their owners who don't

want to be separated from their animals -- a needed service since most designated shelters don't allow


The American Humane Association has also sent an Animal Planet Rescue vehicle to Atlanta, Ga., moving

nearly 140 animals into safe locations in a 24-hour period.

Many faith-based organizations are preparing to send volunteers to help with cleanup and, later, with

rebuilding houses.

Florida and Georgia have already been declared disaster areas, and emergency management teams,

faith-based response groups, and community organizations are mobilizing to offer both immediate and

long-term assistance to storm survivors.

Church World Service (CWS) has been in contact with Habitat for Humanity about a partnership to rebuild

houses with local volunteers. Charlie Moeller, a CWS disaster resource facilitator based in North Carolina,

said that he is watching the storm with high apprehension. "It's a very, very dangerous storm," he said.

Last week Hurricane Dennis significantly eroded beaches and sand dunes in North Carolina's Outer Banks,

making the islands especially vulnerable to Floyd's massive size and strength.

Other faith-based groups are posed to dispatch to the hardest-hit areas. A unit of Texas Baptist Men from

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief will leave Thursday, and Church of the Brethren teams are also ready to

offer child care in partnership with the American Red Cross.

In coordination with state emergency management officials, FIND is activating Operation Cover-up, which

involves transporting plastic covering to homes whose roofs have been damaged. Then Christian

Contractors, a volunteer group of skilled builders, will help install the tarps and repair roofs.

As Floyd threatens to make landfall late Wednesday along the Carolina coast, the logistics of the

evacuation are all too real: massive traffic jams, supply shortages, and long line in stores. Even the Second

Harvest Food Bank in Seminole County, Fla. had to secure its warehouse Wednesday with plans to reopen

and distribute food Thursday morning.

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