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My Turn

August 31, 2009

My Turn: Hurricane relief is about people


Our first clients, a Mexican family, arrived the night Hurricane Ike passed by. They lived near Houston and had been unsuccessfully trying to find a room until a motel employee who worshiped at the church suggested our shelter.

They were soon joined by others, including one young man who rode up on a bicycle in the pouring rain and gusting wind with all his worldly possessions in a large trash bag.

Disaster officials consolidated shelters as power was restored and people returned home. Our evacuees, all with their own transportation, gradually left to resume their lives.

When the church shelter closed we were reassigned to a large shelter in a community center with about 250 residents, including mandatory evacuees who had been brought by bus.

The gym floor in this former high school was covered with rows of cots divided into family units, with all their belongings piled around. The shelter population was a microcosm of any town or city in Texas, with the old, young, healthy and sickly, and all other conditions of mankind present.

Those evacuated by bus were not as free to return home and had to wait until their local authorities provided transportation. Then word spread that buses would be there the next day.

We wished them well and sent them off with a good supply of snacks, water bottles, hand sanitizer and our prayers. Then it was our turn to come home. When those of us who volunteered speak with each other, we say "I wonder what happened to Calvin," an older, garrulous gentleman who used a walker, who lived alone in his own mobile home but needed electricity to power his well pump.

He was fond of sharing his three jokes and it didn't matter that it was always the same joke, just with different characters, we still laughed.

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