Money begins flowing to Katrina evacuees

Published 5:00 am Friday, September 9, 2005

Financial assistance for people living in American Red Crossshelters arrived Thursday, while help for area residents affectedby Hurricane Katrina should come in the near future, officialssaid.

Red Cross team members began visiting local shelters Thursday todistribute checks to evacuees staying there.

“This is just the beginning,” said Kim Carr, disaster chairwomanfor the local Red Cross chapter.

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An estimated 500 people were aided yesterday, and additionalshelter visits were planned for today. Carr said assistance teamsplanned to return to First Baptist Church today and will also visitMacedonia Baptist Church in the county.

“We’re mandated by (the national organization) to go to theshelters first,” said Melton McMorris, president of the local RedCross chapter.

Carr said additional teams are expected to arrive soon, andofficials hope to have the local assistance service center set upby Saturday. The center will be located on Court Street nearKimbrell Office Supply.

Carr said local residents may come in to report home damage. Shesaid an evaluation would be made to determine whether benefits canbe paid.

Carr pointed out that residents who lost electricity or food intheir freezers would not be eligible to apply for assistance. Shesaid those items are not covered under Red Cross guidelines.

Citing privacy concerns, Carr was unable to say how much shelterresidents are receiving. She said the funds are intended to helpthem get a new start and to return some normalcy to theirlives.

Keith Navarre, who is staying at the St. Paul M.B. Churchshelter, said he hopes to use the Red Cross assistance possibly tofind another place for his family to stay. The 35-year-old lifelongNew Orleans resident said he may not return to that city.

“It’s been an ordeal,” Navarre said. “We’ve still got a lot ofwork to do.”

Navarre said he had heard estimates that New Orleans’ populationmay drop as much as 40 percent. He said Hurricane Katrina was aterrible disaster that no one expected.

“God was with us, and we’re still alive,” Navarre said. “That’sall that counts.”

Steve Schlosser, Red Cross shelter manager at Easthaven BaptistChurch, said the financial help will benefit residents in severalways.

“This is a good morale booster,” Schlosser said.

Schlosser said some residents have been needing money forgasoline to help them go elsewhere to reunite with familymembers.

“Now they can go,” Schlosser said. “Others will not go becausethey’ve still got loved ones missing. They’ll stay around hereuntil they get word.”

The Rev. Philip Sterling, pastor at St. Paul, praised the RedCross effort.

“The local Red Cross chapter has done an excellent job with theresources they’ve had up to this point,” said Sterling. Hecommended Carr, McMorris and fellow chapter officials Layla Edwardsand Zandra Henderson.

Sterling asked for residents’ understanding and patience as RedCross officials respond to the crisis.

“This is the first time in the history of the U.S. this has everhappened. There’s no plan to go back and look at. This is all new,”Sterling said. “It’s just going to take time to get everythingworked out.”