Monday, September 05, 2005

Refuge in Waldron

The little town where I am a minister in the hills of western Arkansas recently increased its population by 100 people.

Our town of 3500 people is roughly 75% white and 25% hispanic, but now we also have 100 African americans--all former residents of New Orleans who have come here via the Superdome and Fort Chaffee in Fort Smith. Fort Chaffee was supposed to receive 4000 people, but got 10,000 people, and our ministerial alliance teamed up with some town leaders and readied an old empty nursing home on Friday to receive as many as we could. It was inspiring to see the townspeople respond with such care. As I write this, my wife is down at the nursing home answering the phone--we recently listed the residents of our shelter and have gotten calls from loved ones looking to find them.

One heartbreaking story at our shelter is of an old woman with an eye patch who held her husband's hand as she sat on her roof and he drowned. She's old, and he had helped her up on the roof, but then couldn't get up himself and was lost to the sludgy water. It is not appropriate for the news outlets to be showing bodies floating face down in the waters. She is traumatized and wants to get back to New Orleans so she can be there when and if they find his body so she can bury it.

Lots of the evacuees aren't planning on returning. I was talking to a woman tonight who said she was going to see how they liked it here and perhaps just settle here.

We've organized meals with all the churches preparing and bringing to the shelter. There is a Tyson plant in town that has offered all the chicken we need, and right now my church freezers are full of fresh chicken from right here in town. Wal-Mart is offering $500. If you ask me, they should be giving a lot more than that considering they will probably make quite a bit of profit on all the people buying relief supplies to donate, and all the people who will have to restock their homes. Perhaps the oil companies could donate some gas to the state of Louisiana. (That'll be the day) We're paying $3.10 a gallon here in Waldron, and they don't even have any gas in Louisina. People have to bring enough gas to get down there and back when picking up refugees.
Just thought my readers would like to know. If you'd like to send help, we could use it. Email me if interested.


  1. Lots of people have been asking me about sending clothes. From the reports I've heard, most shelters have too many clothes... is that the case with your relief effort, too?

    I'm glad your church and town have been able to respond to the crisis.

  2. Yes, we have plenty of clothes. Thanks for the offer though. We have actually moved most of the families out of shelter and reunited with family. some families have decided to stay here, so we've helped them get on their feet in a new town. I saw one couple last night at the grocery store and tried to help them find pig lips. Yum!