Wednesday, September 07, 2005

TOP STORY >> Cabot could give $50,000 for refugees

Leader staff writer

A special Cabot City Council meeting has been set for tonight at 7 to deal with evacuee issues.
The council will consider appropriating $50,000 for the mayor to spend at his discretion to assist the evacuees in Cabot until federal aid is available, waiving water deposits for evacuees and establishing temporary housing on 10th Street.

A little more than a week after Hurricane Katrina devastated parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, homes in Beebe, Searcy and Cabot have become a refuge for some of the thousands displaced by the storm and the people in those areas who want to help are trying to organize their efforts.

Since the storm hit, the Cabot Chamber of Commerce has been a sort of clearinghouse for information about the needs of the victims. At press time, the city and chamber had scheduled a meeting in the city annex to try to coordinate relief efforts.

Beebe Clerk-Treasurer Paul Hill, one of the founders of Beebe KARES, a hastily established nonprofit organization with a mission of helping evacuees in the Beebe area who are not staying in shelters, said Tuesday afternoon that all is going well.

“We have 54 people on our list right now and everyone is clothed, housed and fed,” he said.
He added that the list included a college student who arrived in the Beebe area without even a clean pair of jeans. Now, he’s enrolled in ASU-Beebe and wearing a pair of jeans provided by a church clothes closet.
Beebe Mayor Donald Ward, a high school history teacher, met with members of the new organization Tuesday afternoon to coordinate the city’s efforts and efforts at the school with those of that organization.
Ward said the police department will pick up donations. Call (501) 882-3365, he said.

The police should also be able to conduct background checks of evacuees so the families they might eventually find temporary shelter with would feel safe.

Ward has appointed Williard Crain, the medical services liaison for Arkansas Rehabilitation Ser-vices, as his liaison to Beebe KARES. While working with the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Crain helped establish Lonoke County Cares, a non-profit that works with needy families.

Ward also announced that Union Valley Baptist Church on Hwy. 64 outside Beebe has agreed to temporarily house up to 200 evacuees in its newest building, a combination gym and Sunday school rooms.
In the Searcy area, Camp Wyldewood, run by the Church of Christ, is housing 44 evacuees. But that church is not bearing the work and expense of housing and feeding them alone.

“It’s been amazing to see how people rise to the occasion,” said Michael Lincoln, camp director. “We’ve had so many offers of assistance that it has just been incredible.”
Lincoln said he has had offers to help from Methodist and Baptist churches from Searcy, Kensett, Hickory Flat, Judsonia and Possum Grape.

The camp will be available for the evacuees for five weeks, he said. After that they will have to find other accommodations. Some have already said they don’t intend to go back to the coast, he said.
Two couples who planned to get married before the storm are now planning a double ceremony in Searcy.