Churches unite to assist 45 evacuees

By Tim Scordato

Local churches are uniting to support the Hurricane Katrina and Rita relief effort.

But rather than send money down to the Gulf Coast, the money is going to the roughly 45 evacuees who found shelter in DeKalb County.

The churches joined to help the families prepare for winter, help them find work and transportation, and donate money and goods.

The Kishwaukee United Way fund is one of the many organizations supporting the evacuees. The United Way and Hope Haven joined with New Hope Missionary Baptist church, 7892 Twombly Road, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church, 158 N. Fourth St., and the First Congregational Church, 349 S. Third St., to care for two families that have lived in a hotel for the past few weeks. They came from the ninth ward of New Orleans, not far from the Seventh Street levy that burst.

Joe Gastiger of First Congregational said the families have a hopeful demeanor and are quite inseparable, but they are understandably discouraged by certain organizations, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, that are hard to contact for questions concerning what the families are eligible for and when donations will come through.

The organizations also changed their plan of action without notifying victims, Gastiger said. FEMA was originally going to give evacuee families a $2,000 debit card for living expenses, but Gastiger said he wondered if that plan ever took flight because he has yet to see one.

The three churches are waiting for the families to move into a more permanent residence before they start sending bigger items like furniture.

They will hopefully find more stable residences within the next couple days, Gastiger said.

Linda Slabon of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship church said her church is organizing relief in conjunction with the DeKalb County Local Katrina Relief Fund, which was set up Sept. 13. The fund is run by representatives from the local government, faith communities and social-service agencies.

To send monetary donations through the mail to the DeKalb County Local Katrina Relief Fund, write to P.O. Box 311, DeKalb, IL, 60115.