Yesterday I posted Bishop Huie’s letter about responding to the need after Katrina. Here’s today’s note from her with more information and specifics about how you can be involved in helping with the refugees in Houston.
God is good. Even in a crisis. God is good. United Methodists are responding to the relief effort from Hurricane Katrina in an extraordinary way. We are also beginning to get more organized. Thanks be to God.
Here is today’s update. Houston officials are now expecting at least 100,000 refugees to arrive in our area. Approximately 25,000 people are being evacuated to the Astrodome. For the most part, these people are the poorest of the poor. They are arriving with nothing except what they are wearing. Mayor Bill White, a member of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church has asked all the faith communities of the Houston region to unite in one effort to feed the people in the Astrodome for the first 30 days.
Operation Compassion has been born through the combined efforts of all these religious leaders. Our combined task will be to prepare, serve and clean up 75,000 meals per day. It will require 240 trained volunteers per meal. The cost is approximately $1,000,000 per week. Each faith group is being asked to provide two things: people and money.
I have committed the United Methodists to underwrite $1,000,000 for Operation Compassion and provide 240 volunteers for each meal for seven days. Our week is Sept. 14-20, 2005. We will be joined by the Hindu faith community and African American evangelicals.
Here is our plan for organizing our people. Each of the five Houston districts will be responsible for one day. In addition, two churches will pick up a day each. The schedule looks like this:
Wednesday, September 14 Houston South
Thursday, September 15 Houston East
Friday, September 16 Houston Northwest
Saturday, September 17 St. Luke UMC
Sunday, September 18 Windsor Village
Monday, September 19 Houston Southwest
Tuesday, September 20 Houston North
State law requires that every volunteer must be trained (2hours) in food handling. Training dates are as follows:
Saturday September 3 9am
Sunday September 4 2pm
Monday, September 5 1pm
These training events are all at Second Baptist Church (6400 Woodway). Other training dates may be scheduled later. However, please try to get as many people trained over the Labor Day Weekend as possible.
We will staff three daily shifts: 4am-10am/ 10am-4pm/4pm-10pm. There will be six feeding trailers with each trailer having a team of 40 volunteers per shift. Each of the trailers will be supervised by 5-6 Disaster Relief members. Each trailer can serve 20,000 meals per day. We are not responsible for meal planning and food purchase. Food service in this way can be provided for about $1.75 per meal.
Volunteers from any United Methodist Church in any part of this conference are welcome to be a part of this effort. Please email the district office or church for the day you want to serve. If you can’t work on “your district’s” day, follow the same instructions.
Here is the plan for raising money. This disaster is beyond the scope of anything we have ever seen. After Allison, I have been told that Houston and East Texas cared for about 35,000 evacuees for a few days. With Katrina, we are talking about 100,000 people for months. At this point we have been told by the Federal Office of Emergency Management that there is no federal money for people arriving in Houston. Since we do not know if there will be any reconsideration of that decision, it is our responsibility to care for these people who are truly the “least, last and lost.” People need to give as generously as they can.
They should make their check out to their local church marked “Katrina.” Treasurers and pastors need to send in Sunday’s offering as quickly as possible. Their check should be made out to the Texas Annual Conference marked “Katrina.” Our $1,000,000 for Operation Compassion needs to be available by September 13, 2005 when we start serving food.
Finally, all the faith communities are being asked to prepare personal hygiene kits. A total of 25,000 will be needed. They should be half-gallon size bags and include the following:
Toothbrush and regular sized toothpaste
Wet wipes/ Travel pack size
We are asking each congregation to drop off their kits at Second Baptist Church (6400 Woodway) on Tuesday September 6 from 9am until 1pm. I know this is short notice, but they will be needed in the Astrodome as soon as possible.
Let me say that there is already tremendous United Methodist response to this effort. Local churches are providing food, clothing and shelter for hundred of people as I write this letter. Everyone of our institutions are engaged in this effort. I’ll say more about some of those responses later.
I have never been more proud to be United Methodist than I have been today. Compassion and mercy is a part of who we are. God bless you for what you have done and will do.
Grace and peace,
Janice Riggle Huie