Texoma Accepting Refugees

9-3-05 - Refugees are already arriving in local cities and will likely be throughout the area by Tuesday. Ada, Whiteright, Gainesville and Denison are preparing shelters right now. That's as Dallas officials say their city has reached capacity.

Bonham and Paris are already home to displaced residents of Louisiana. More than 100 people are being triaged at the armory in Bonham.

Ada Churches, the Pontotoc County American Red Cross, Chickasaw Nation and other community agencies are preparing to receive 400 evacuees. Preparations are underway to get volunteers, setup cots, stock food pantries, collect donations and basically do whatever it takes.

Geneva Howard, executive director, Pontotoc County Chapter of the American Red Cross in a meeting today said the original plan of the first four churches that were leaving in the morning at 6:00 a.m. is now halted. “We now have to wait until they call and let us know when we can go and pick them up,” Howard said. First arrivals could be seen as early as next week.

The First Baptist Church team was headed up by Bruce Cowart, church member and general manager of Ada’s local Wal-Mart store, and would have been joined by First Presbyterian, First United Methodist, and First Christian Church.

Organizational efforts continue and donated items are still needed in preparation. Cots are desperately needed along with bedding. These items can be dropped off at the Chickasaw Nation gym located on Arlington and Mississippi. According to Loretta Abney, Center Free Will Baptist, other donated items are being accepted at the First Baptist Church at 521 S. Broadway. Look for a semi-truck parked and waiting for donations. “Right now we just need the essentials, later we’ll need clothing and other things,” Abney said.

Volunteers are still needed for setup and other preparations and everyone is asked to donate from the following list: Bottled Water; Diapers; Non-perishable Food Items and Ready-to-Eat Food Items; Baby Formulas; Baby Bottles; Personal Hygiene and Feminine Hygiene Products, Shampoos, Soaps, Toothbrushes, Toothpaste, Baby Wipes, Deodorant, basic over-the-counter medicine such as Tylenol.

Valley View Regional Hospital will be setting up a triage for medical services when the evacuees first arrive.

Invited are pastors and church representatives to a community meeting next Wednesday, Sept. 7, 12 noon, at the Trinity Baptist Church-Annex on Mississippi, to further discuss plans for housing and caring for the evacuees.

For information regarding the meeting call Loretta Abney at 320-9248. Volunteers may call the American Red Cross office in Ada at 332-2402.

In Whitewright, efforts are currently under way to clean the abandoned nursing home so that it may house Katrina victims. The cleaning will be continuing through Labor Day weekend until Tuesday despite the fact that water has not been turned onto the facility yet. The volunteer fire department has been trucking water in.

Help is needed for the cleaning and then afterwards to furnish the building with the everyday essentials that the victims will need to live as well as items to make the building and their rooms seem homier. The Red Cross will be supplying the cots, but volunteers are relying on donations for everything else including beding, food, personal care products, towels, and paper products. After the vicitms arrive they will assess their idividual needs and then start collecting more specific items such as baby items, clothing, school supplies, money, etc.

As many as 200 victims will be housed in this facility - at least 50 families - for a minimum of 3 months and as many as 6 months.

The City of Whitewright is setting up a bank account for monetary donations at the local Independent Bank branch. Anyone interested in helping can contact Whitewright City Hall at 903-364-2219 or Jean Tykoski (Whitewright Chamber of Commerce President) at 903-364-5166.