|A Web-only photo by the Rev. David Wilson
The Rev. Julienne Judd and the Rev. Lucy Tonemah (foreground) sort clothes for evacuees housed at Camp Gruber.
Oct. 4, 2005
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
They came with their vans.
most of September, United Methodists from both the Oklahoma Indian
Missionary Conference and Oklahoma Annual (regional) Conference assisted
Hurricane Katrina evacuees housed at Camp Gruber, a National Guard
took the evacuees shopping in Muskogee, about 14 miles away; arranged
telephone calls; assisted with paperwork; and helped them move to
temporary housing or to be with relatives.
the end of September, the work was nearly complete. Only about 75 of
nearly 1,600 evacuees who had arrived earlier in the month remained at
Camp Gruber, according to Phillis McCarty, disaster response coordinator
for the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
of the remaining evacuees are people with special needs or conditions,
added the Rev. Anita Phillips, who played a lead role in getting the
volunteer services at Camp Gruber up and running. The trauma experienced
by the evacuees who remain, she said, “has compounded everything in
their lives. They need some individual care and casework.”
who has training in disaster recovery through the United Methodist
Committee on Relief, took charge of coordination for Community
Organizations Active in Disaster on the base. The volunteers also worked
with the Red Cross and state agencies.
Shaffer, former co-director of the Oklahoma Conference disaster
response program, provided assistance through that conference, according
to McCarty. “Our basic functions have been to coordinate volunteers and
coordinate transportation for the evacuees,” she said.
of those who had fled the ravages of Hurricane Katrina came from the
New Orleans Superdome, looking for housing. “As they came through Texas,
they were turned away repeatedly,” Phillips said, explaining that other
shelters were full. When the buses arrived at Camp Gruber over Labor
Day Weekend, the evacuees “were just so happy to be in Oklahoma and in a
of the evacuees told Phillips that it was not the hurricane itself but
the chaos afterward that “destroyed their sense of security and peace of
the ecumenical effort of local churches, responding to the needs at
Camp Gruber would have been difficult, according to Phillips.
|A Web-only photo by the Rev. David Wilson
The Rev. Tim Byington loads boxes of supplies for hurricane survivors onto a truck.
Baptists set up a chaplaincy network. A Pentecostal pastor was in charge
of assigning small projects to individual congregations. The
ministerial alliance of Muskogee, led by a Church of Christ pastor,
matched church sponsorship with those needing permanent housing at a
center established at First United Methodist Church in Muskogee.
Methodists met a variety of needs on the base, from operating computers
to sorting out the mountains of donations to simply being a friendly
presence. The denomination’s connectional system made such organization
tried to have our pastors (from both conferences) on base all hours
except for curfew,” Phillips said. “We would direct them to go to the
places where there were the highest volumes of people … to be that
services have been in constant demand. United Methodists drive evacuees
to the bus depot, the airport or wherever they need to go. “When you
drive up (to Camp Gruber), you’ll see four or five United Methodist vans
standing by and ready,” she pointed out.
McCarty estimated that United Methodists from around the state provided about 90 percent of the vans used for transportation.
the evacuees who have departed Camp Gruber, she said, about a third
have returned to Louisiana to wait until they can get back into New
Orleans, another third have moved in with family members both inside and
outside Oklahoma, and the remainder are staying in the state, at least
temporarily. Some churches are adopting families “and getting them set
up with jobs and homes.”
been a wild ride,” Phillips said about the experience of assisting
Hurricane Katrina evacuees. “I’ve seen the very, very best of what
churches and communities can do and how God’s people respond to the hurt
and pain of others.”
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.