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‘Providence’ leads evacuees to Decatur, local churches

By Seth Burkett
DAILY Staff Writer · 340-2355

Members of a church on Memorial Drive Southwest said Monday that their mission center has basically adopted many of those who lodged at area hotels to escape Hurricane Katrina.

Out-of-the-Rain Mission, part of Progressive Christian Outreach Ministries, is taking part in efforts to assist evacuees who took refuge at the Stay Lodge and Courtyard Marriott hotels.

More than 30 local churches and more than 20 businesses have provided meals, gift cards and supplies for families, said Mary K. Braddock, director of the Volunteer Center of Morgan County. At least 30 families have volunteered rooms, houses and trailers for victims.

Meals have been available to evacuees every day, Braddock said, and the Volunteer Center provides a daily list of such resources to evacuees.

Countless drives, like the one at Out-of-the-Rain Mission, are ongoing.

Monday, the church served evacuees meals, including a breakfast compliments of McDonald's and home-cooked lunch and supper. Church facilities remained open to evacuees, who pass the time playing games and chatting with locals.

"I knew that there was a need," said organizer Doris Baker, who said God led her to help the hurricane victims. "Last Tuesday, I went to where they were staying, and I've been involved since then."

'Receiving anything'

"We'll be receiving anything that people have to give," said Progressive pastor Arthur Warrior. "Everything that we're doing here is going to benefit the victims."

He said the mission hopes to collect monetary donations to pay for hotel rooms and personal items for the evacuees, and food and drink items. Even perishable goods such as meats are welcome, because the church has refrigerators and freezers to store them.

He said a gospel concert held Sunday raised about $3,500 to benefit the evacuees.

"A lot of them are already approved for somewhere to stay, but they lost everything in the hurricane. So they have an apartment, but it's an empty apartment," Warrior said, adding that receipts will be provided for donations.

Braddock said a greater number of homes have been offered to hurricane evacuees than there are families of evacuees, and that soon more evacuees may come from Birmingham in search of aid.

"It has just been a wonderful, wonderful response," she said.

Warrior said six homeowners attempted to travel back to Louisiana on Sunday night to take pictures of damage for insurance purposes.

"There was so much traffic that they couldn't get in," he said.

Attorney Anthony Skidmore said he doesn't know what became of his house on the West Bank of New Orleans, but his legal office near the courthouse is under water.

His clients, if they are fortunate, are scattered through the area surrounding the Gulf Coast, like himself and so many others. And seemingly everyone has family and friends who remained behind, he said.

New Orleans depended on public transportation, which meant a lot of pedestrians were stuck with no way to get out of the city, he said.

Future is on hold

The future is on hold, at least until New Orleans is safe again, and Skidmore said he has no desire to return as long as the area remains hazardous.

"It's hard to get a sense of what's going to happen . . . I haven't been able to get a decent night's sleep. It's just hard to sleep in a situation like this," he said.

For now, he is pleased, under the circumstances, to have come to Decatur with his wife and eight other family members.

"We could not have found a better place to be," he said. "There had to be divine intervention for us to have wound up here . . . I am really surprised. I never expected the level of hospitality and acceptance to be so high. It's just phenomenal."

"Small-town America," mused Skidmore, who said he always resided in big cities and never had any plans of visiting Decatur, until Providence pushed him north along evacuation routes to find sanctuary for his family at the Decatur Courtyard Marriott.

"That's what I'm talking about, man, the little individual citizens, from the housekeepers on up to the managers," he said, lauding the response of private citizens, business people and community groups to the needs of hurricane victims.

Anyone would like to assist Out-of-the-Rain Mission with efforts to provide for evacuees can call Lena Warrior at 340-2020.

Braddock encouraged churches, groups and individuals interested in helping hurricane victims call her office at 355-8628, to help with coordinating and advertising needs.

"We're trying to link the needs of the community with our resources. That's our mission," she said.

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