Texas Baptists mobilize to meet Hurricane Ike

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As Hurricane Ike took aim at the Texas coast, Texas Baptists began mobilizing to meet the needs of people who might evacuate South Texas.

At the request of the state, Baptist Child & Family Services opened shelters in the San Antonio area that can serve several thousand evacuees with special needs, such as basic medical care, support or attention.

After sheltering about 300 medical special-needs evacuees from Hurricane Gustav, Baptist Child & Family Services personnel had little down time. Staff moved to a 24-hour operation mode to prepare for Hurricane Ike.

Twenty churches prepared to shelter evacuees at the request of BCFS.

Corpus Christi officials called for the evacuation of all special-needs individuals from the area. Officials ordered the mandatory evacuation of one ZIP code in Galveston-area Brazoria County. Some parts of Houston also were being evacuated.

“We do not want to underestimate this storm. We will receive (special-needs) evacuees long before Hurricane Ike reaches landfall, the question is only when,” BCFS President Kevin Dinnin said. “This is a task that we take very seriously and an evacuation that will take the entire San Antonio community.”

Texas Baptist Men activated five teams. The East Texas-Smith Baptist Association Unit will serve in Bryan; the Bluebonnet Baptist Association Unit is serving in San Antonio and will be joined by the State Unit; the East Texas-Gregg Baptist Association Unit will serve in Longview; and another team of volunteers from around the state will serve in Laredo. In all, TBM was asked to prepare about 46,000 meals a day.

Eight TBM shower units also are serving.

“Right now, things are going really well,” Joe Detterman, who is helping coordinate TBM’s disaster relief work, said as Ike stalked through the Gulf of Mexico, taking aim on the Texas coast. “We’ve had good response from our teams. We have teams going out to meet people’s needs.”

South Texas Children’s Home was evacuating its Corpus Christi campus. Buckner International evacuated its retirement and children’s facilities in Beaumont.

“Greg Eubanks and our Southeast Texas children’s staff arrived safely at Camp Buckner very early Thursday morning, and our foster families are following their pre-planned evacuation routes,” Buckner President Ken Hall said later that morning. “The Calder Woods staff is in process of evacuating now. Fortunately, they had buses reserved just in case, so their advance planning paid off.”

On Sept. 11, Ike was a Category 2 hurricane with sustained winds around 100 mph. It was expected to make landfall on the Texas coast Sept. 13 as at least a Category 3 storm. President Bush declared a state of emergency along the Texas coast.

Baptist Child & Family Services and Texas Baptist Men both were active when Hurricane Gustav hit Louisiana recently. BCFS housed nearly 300 people with special needs.

“BCFS was given the role of caring for medical special needs evacuees in Texas because of our experience in caring for society’s most vulnerable,” BCFS spokesperson Haley Smith said. “We view this as just another opportunity to impact the world the world for Christ. We are so thankful for our partner churches who serve as shelters and make it possible for us to take on this role.”

TBM provided nearly 25,000 meals for evacuees in Bryan, Lufkin, Marshall and Longview.

An East Texas Baptist University gym was transformed into an 80-bed mobile hospital by the federal government.

“Our university was pleased to host this operation,” ETBU President Bob Riley said. “It gave our staff and students an opportunity to be a servant to our fellowman. Our staff rose to the occasion to assist these people in need. As a Christian university, we are pleased to help out.”

To support Texas Baptist disaster relief, visit www.bgct.org or www.texasbaptistmen.org . Checks marked “disaster relief” also can be sent to Texas Baptist Men, 5351 Catron, Dallas 75227 or BGCT, P.O. Box 159007, Dallas 75315-9007.

Buckner has requested financial assistance for evacuating its Beaumont facility. For more information, visit www.buckner.org .

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