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Sheltering evacuees takes experience, care

By Lauren Hightower-Emerson
Sept. 11, 2008 at 4:11 a.m.


His name might not be Katrina, but Hurricane Ike is causing a lot of activity in Waco.

The city of Waco is working with local churches to prepare for any evacuees who might come their way, Mary Darden, coordinator of the shelter at Seventh and James Baptist Church, said.

“It’s some of the hardest work you’ll ever do, but it’s exponentially more rewarding than anything else,” she said.

Darden began the effort to shelter hurricane evacuees in churches during the crisis around New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

From the lessons learned in those experiences, the city has opened shelters for Hurricane Ike evacuees.

Volunteers have pack the kitchen with packaged food and evacuees haven’t even made it to the shelter yet.

The city of Waco has worked out a distribution system so that no shelter becomes overcrowded. The first 500 evacuees will be sheltered in Greene Family Camp. Then they will be sent to other shelters in the area.

Steve Vaughn, the assistant city/county emergency management coordinator, said only about 80 evacuees had come to Waco as of Thursday afternoon.

“We’re not seeing anywhere near the number of evacuees that we thought we would,” he said.

The shelters are operated totally by volunteers.

“Coordinating with churches and watching everything pull together is worth it,” he said.

But with Ike nearing the Texas coast, there’s a lot left to deal with.

“We will continue to be ready and be watchful until the hurricane finds its way ashore.”

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As of noon Thursday, obstetric services at DeTar Hospital North consolidated to the DeTar Hospital Navarro campus. OB services for the DeTar Healthcare System are scheduled to resume at DeTar Hospital North at 8 a.m. Monday.

Richard Olson will likely wait out Ike in his Oaklawn Street home. Thursday afternoon he was waiting for his employer, Budwiser, to tell him if he’s working today.

“Everybody wants beer,” Olson said. “They can deal with the storm better.”

Faris Williams, 87-year-old Port Lavaca retiree evacuates every time a storm comes through. Living in town 67 years, he only stayed for Hurricane Claudette.

“I don’t want to be here when it gets here,” he said while waiting in line to board the bus at the Bauer Community Center.

Maribel Coutino, 24, of Port Lavaca loaded her four kids onto the bus.

“I don’t want to stay for that storm,” she said.

Her brother Louis Coutino, a 17-year-old Calhoun High School senior, helped her carry the bags and children. While the little ones were excited to be going on a trip, he was more concerned.

“Worst-case scenario, we don’t have a house,” he said about their home on Trinity Street.

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