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Churches offers shelter to evacuees

With Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav under their belts,Brookhaven’s five major church-based shelters are getting quitegood at running disaster relief.

Central Baptist, Easthaven Baptist, Faith Presbyterian, FirstBaptist and Macedonia Baptist churches have almost 700 mostlyLouisiana evacuees within their walls after opening up Sundayafternoon and evening.

Central Baptist Church Pastor Ryan Thurman said his churchfilled up with 105 evacuees within three hours of opening Sunday at6 p.m. Church volunteers have been providing for the evacuees’round the clock since then.

“I’m super, super proud of our church,” Thurman said. “Ourchurch members showed up with pillows and blankets in hand, and wewent and bought groceries and have been cooking three meals aday.”

Easthaven Baptist Church Youth Minister Hampton Sims said theshelter operations have “been going smoothly” since the churchopened at 11:30 a.m. Sunday with evacuees already lined up in thechurch parking lot.

“Everything is going good – we’ve had great volunteers,” hesaid. “We have The Weather Channel on in the Worship Center andwe’re keeping an eye on things from there.”

Brookhaven’s largest shelter – Faith Presbyterian Church – isusing its past Katrina knowledge and massive volunteering effort totake care of its 199 evacuees.

“Everything these people have has been provided by the churchand volunteers,” said church member Anna Davey. “We opened withoutcots and gave people blankets and sheets and sent our people toJackson to buy [75] air mattresses.”

First Baptist Church Associate Pastor Jeff Doremus said the 80evacuees at his church were appreciative and working with theircaretakers. He said the church’s Katrina experience has paid offwell since it opened its doors Sunday at 9 p.m.

“We learned from Katrina what we needed, what we did and didn’tdo well,” Doremus said. “The preparations seem to have worked.We’ve been fairly well supplied.”

Macedonia Baptist Church Pastor Garland Boyd said his volunteerswere the backbone of his church’s success. Since opening at 6 p.m.Sunday, Macedonia has fed and put up almost 150 evacuees with nocontact from the American Red Cross.

“During [hurricanes] Katrina and Rita, we learned to beproactive,” Boyd said.

All five Brookhaven-area shelters have responded to the influxof evacuees in a similar fashion. All the churches have sent theirown members out to purchase huge amounts of food, supplies, airmattresses and blankets. Each church has depended on its ownmanpower ’round the clock for cooking, caretaking andadministration.

Each church is providing three meals a day, entertainment andconstant access to the Weather Channel so evacuees can keep trackof Hurricane Gustav.

All shelters are waiting for the weather to clear and forevacuees to begin returning home before closing. Evacuees areexpected to be transferred to one main shelter as numbers thinaround the city.