Strong opinions, weakly held

Tales of relief

Here’s an email sent to my mom by a woman who attends her church. My home town of Orange, Texas is the first exit on Interstate 10 headed west from Lousiana. Nearly all Katrina refugees headed to Texas have passed through there.

I received this, called the chamber and the next group of buses, about 800 people, will arrive around noon today. They have drinks but need food for these people. I will be buying what I can and making peanut butter sandwiches. I figured my money could feed more people on PB. Please read the email below.

I heard assistance was needed at the Texas Welcome Center (TX/LA Border), so I signed up to work the 11 PM to 1 AM shift and recruited my friend Shawn to join me. When we arrived we found out that they had just finished “greeting” 12 bus loads of people that had been evacuated from New Orleans.

We were immediately put to work filling care package bags to be passed out to the next buses that were to follow. All of the items distributed were donations (and mostly from individuals who had found out about the need). Each bag had about 3 snack items (chips, granola, bars, raisins, etc) and one juice bag. We also had fresh fruit and cold drinks to distribute. Donations of diapers, formula, hygiene items and clothing had also been donated and were distributed as needed.

Not long after we finished filling the bags, the buses began to arrive… These people had come straight from New Orleans. Many of them had no shoes and some people had resorted to wearing trash bags as clothing. They gladly accepted any article of clothing they could pull over their bodies. Most of them were shivering and many said their clothes were still wet. The little children look dazed and confused, but still managed to say, “Thank you” when we handed them our little bags of treats. I got in the habit of saying, “Welcome to Texas! We’re glad you made it.” The common response was, “So are we.”

Many were eager to talk about the traumatic events they had been through, but they were given only a short amount of time to take a bathroom break, and receive their care package before they were loaded back on the bus and continued on their journey. Most of them did not know where they were headed and those who thought they were headed to Houston had not yet been told that they were being diverted to Dallas because Houston is now full.

Shawn and I left at 4:00 AM only because we had run out of food. I think we served about 30 bus loads of people (but I honestly lost count). The last bus of people we received were given one zip-lock back of saltine crackers with peanut butter spread on them. It was heart breaking, but at the same time remarkable. One man smiled and said, “This is great… thank so much.” We still had water and drinks to give but not much of anything else left to provide the many buses that were following close behind.

There were about 2 dozen volunteers working while I was there and I understand several others had received many, many buses throughout the afternoon. This effort will continue for the next several days. If you are one of the many people who are looking for a way to help, I recommend that bring ANY TYPE OF DONATION THAT CAN BE DISTRIBUTED TO THE PEOPLE to the Texas Welcome center. They are freezing cold and desperately need shoes, socks, underwear, diapers, depends, sanitary pads, baby wipes, t-shirts, blankets, (beach towels would be great) etc. And if you have an hour (or 4 or 6) to volunteer, I promise you will come away with the gratitude of knowing you have truly helped people in GREAT need.

Food donations are desperately needed. If you have the resources, make a run by the dollar store or Wal-Mart and buy any type individually wrapped snack food. I am sure a cash donation would also be gladly accepted.

For those who have already received several emails from me, I apologize… and promise that this is the last time I will ask you to PLEASE DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO HELP WITH THIS NEED!

Good night (or good morning) and God Bless!


  1. Can I suggest handing out a notepad or cards for people to write down their name, the number or email address of someone they want to contact and passing onto another team who can make the calls and send the emails as it may take some time for refugees to make it to a phone or computer.

    Kudos to your Mom for meeting those folks from New Orleans with some welcome aid.

  2. Would your mother be interested in being a recieving point for some donations? I don’t see an address for the Welcome Center on the City of Orange, Texas website (www.orangetexas.net). I’d love to help out in a direct way, but I’m in Portland, OR. If you think she would be interested, I can arrange to send goods to her, or perhaps to have local goods purchased and delivered to her home for distribution. Feel free to email me at the email address given for this post in order to reply.

    p.s. Your Mom is a saint. Bless her.

  3. I was just about the post the same request as Anna (and incidentally, I’m also from Portland). Just take the “nospam” out of my email address.

  4. Thank you, but what small contribution that I have made is minimal. The outpouring of service and compassion has been repeated over and over again as people have just showed up to help or said yes when they were called. The local community has extended itself as almost every church in Orange is housing evacuees now.

    The information reported on television does not totally reflect what is happening here locally. People are being sheltered in churches in groups ranging from 80 to 300 people. The number of churches designated as Red Cross Shelters has continually increased since last Sunday night. This is in contrast to the large shelters in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio that you see on the news. I am sure that other small communities throughout Louisiana and East Texas are also opening their doors to these people in need. We receive 20 new people last night. In these small groups, volunteers and those who are sheltered are getting to know one another and there is a sense of community.

    I did not write the email you read. I received it and sent it on to Rafe. However, in response to that email, ladies in our church prepared 800 peanut butter sandwiches yesterday and took them to the Orange Tourist Bureau on I10. Donations of clothing, toiletries, pre-packaged food, etc. flooded the bureau and volunteers continued to come, sorting the donated clothes by size and giving to those on the buses who stopped.

    There has been an outpouring of donations locally. However, Red Cross has strict guidelines about donations. All clothing and other items given to the evacuees at shelters must be new or processed through locally designated organizations. The clothing we gave to those in our shelter was new and purchased by members of the church or with money donated by members of the church. Food served must be pre-arranged and approved by Red Cross. These regulations are for health reasons. Evacuees will take all items including bedding given to them during their stay when they leave the shelter including cots.

    Donations of used items are handled through the local Salvation Army or Orange Christian Services. These agencies accept items, clean them, and make them available to those in need or to the Red Cross.

    If you are interested in donating locally, I would suggest donating money to the following. Otherwise, I would give to the Red Cross in your area and designate the money to the Hurricane Katrina victims.

    Orange Christian Services 2518 W. Park Ave Orange, Texas 77632 (409) 886-0938

    Salvation Army, Orange Chapter 1950 Martin Luther King Dr. Orange, Texas (409) 883-4232

    Orange Red Cross 908 Pine Ave Orange, Texas 77632 (409) 883-2322

    My church is committed to serve these people for however long it takes. Our address is: First Presbyterian Congregation of the Church in Orange Rev. Sam Knight, Pastor 902 Green Ave. Orange, Texas 77632 (409) 883-2097

    There was some good news at our shelter yesterday evening. Dickie, my husband, stopped by after work to check on a family he had befriended while volunteering. The husband worked at a chemical facility and was a fishing guide on the side just like my husband. The wife was diabetic and had gone to the hospital the day before for high blood sugar; she was back from the hospital. The husband’s company had called. His refinery in Venice would be starting up again, and he felt that he and his family would be leaving soon. They did not know what would be waiting for them when they returned home. Dickie gave them his card and said to call him if they needed anything. Whatever and whenever he would be there to help.

    I am a Christian and I feel that this is what Christ meant by discipleship. The people here are truly laying down there lives for their friends.

    Thank you for you thoughts, ideas, prayers, and your generosity. I will pass on the information about the notepads. That is a good one. We have people calling the church looking for loved ones all day every day.

    Again, it is not me – it is everyone. Karen Colburn

  5. I passed this on to my tens of readers, and my wife and I will send some money to help out. The Red Cross is great at emergency relief (and we have of course sent them some money too), but people on the spot willing to give up beds and make sandwiches are equally necessary, especially in the coming weeks as the media spotlight moves on.

    Thank you to Rafe and Karen both.

  6. Think Globally, Act Locally

    Rafe Colburn’s mother tells of relief efforts for Hurricane Katrina refugees in Orange, Texas. Also, make sure to read her update in the comments….

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