I'm working at the Service Center at the First Baptist Church in Bearden every day. I am a Caseworker Supervisor and am one of the people authorizing money and services for the refugees arriving from LA, MS and AL. I'm also one of the "problem solvers", along with several other extraordinary volunteers, we deal with the little individual issues that arise and need fixing. I typically leave at 7 in the morning and get back between 8 and 11 pm. Today is my day off, unless the expected plane arrives today (the one that was supposed to arrive Tues then Wed then Thurs then Thurs night and still, apparently, has not left). It is supposedly bringing some more folks to us and the shelters.
We have processed around 700-800 families so far. Around 15,000 people are expected in this area (or so FEMA tells us but then, what the hell do they know?).
The Service Center now offers a Humane Society presence (with a veterinarian), the Social Security Dept (in order to facilitate getting checks to people), a job referral place, a housing referral place, a medical area staffed with nurses and docs, a Supply Depot where people can go "shopping", and a child care area staffed by church daycare volunteers. The Central Baptist Church has done a remarkable, phenomenal job of providing volunteer, financial and food support (three hot meals a day, snacks and drinks anytime for anyone and everyone) and coordinating the donations that are constantly being dropped by. I am blown away by the kindness and organization of these people.
Red Cross is providing a credit card loaded with $$ depending upon how many in the family. Card can be used for food, groceries, gas, cash back....whatever (although they cannot purchase firearms, alcohol or tobacco products).
Many are relocating here and need housing. So many need jobs. They have nothing (no home, no job) to go back to.
They need friends. A support system to help them get around town. Help them settle, find their way around.
A huge supply of toys arrived yesterday. Previously, the diapers and supplies disappeared quickly. Yesterday, the church went out and purchased scads of diapers and no one needed them, so there seems to be a huge supply - at least at Central Baptist - where I spend my days. Being in the Service Center is like being in a Time Warp. Time passes and you have no idea what time it is and what is going on in the world or the community except for the client in front of you.
They CONSTANTLY run out of towels and wash cloths and the church has been purchasing them.
A medical supply company stepped up yesterday and will donate whatever insurance does not pay for. They will provide hospital beds, wheelchairs, motorized wheel chairs, walkers,canes, bedside commodes, etc. They will also do all of the paperwork, freeing up the volunteer nurses and docs!
We are all tired........bone achingly tired. And, at times, emotionally drained. Casework forms and rules change daily, almost hourly sometimes. Volunteers continue to pour in but can only come back every now and again. Yet the resiliency of the hurricane's victims is amazing. They are so very grateful for the little that we can do for them. Some are in shock. They all have stories that will blow you away. They've lost family members - don't know if they made it out or not. Many have family members who died and did not make it out. So many are riddled with guilt over having left their pets behind in their home (up on the top floor with water and food to last the 1-2 days that they expected to be gone from home) which, when the levee broke, was washed away in the flood. It is hard not to cry with them.
It is believed that the Service Center will be open for a long time - months. We don't know how many.
Most Union County Red Cross activities will be suspended. The Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon has been canceled. The roadblock at the Horseshoe in Sharps Chapel on September 24th will be canceled. People will get confused about fundraising for Union County fire victims and Katrina. The fundraising planned for the Plainview area on October 22 will probably still go on - we'll have to re-evaluate the situation when we get there. The Scrubby Bear and Safe on My Own in the 1st and 4th grades in the schools should be able to go on as planned. No decision has been made yet about the six hour Basic Aid Training class for the 5th graders. One BAT teacher (Pat) is in Alabama feeding Katrina survivors and two are working at the Service Center (Amy and me). We are all in it for the long haul.
What your donation dollars are achieving, folks. A difference is being made.