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Emergency Shelters in Churches: A Regional Panel in Blanco County
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 • Posted October 14, 2008

How do you turn a church into an emergency shelter — and make it work? And is there a role for small churches?

A regional panel on emergency shelters in local churches will be held Saturday morning in Johnson City.

The panelists will cover ways to make shelters work better in churches, based on their experiences with church shelters over decades past...and as recently as last month.

The panel is sponsored by the Blanco County Disaster Response Group, and will include:

• Mike McEuen, Disaster Response Chairman, Broadmoor United Methodist Church, Baton Rouge, La., on the disaster shelter plan his church developed and used including for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Gustav.

• Jean Krohn, volunteer shelter manager, American Red Cross, Fredericksburg, on her many years of experience establishing shelters in churches throughout the country, most recently for Hurricane Ike.

• BW “Sonny” Payne, First Presbyterian Church, Kerrville, on how his church adapted to and supported the Red Cross shelter set up in his facility for evacuees from Hurricane Ike.

• Amy BeVille Elder, executive director, Texas Interagency Interfaith Disaster Response (TIDR), Austin, on her experiences with major metro shelters and the advantages she has found churches can add to the process.

The panelists’ descriptions will cover the best and worst of experiences and the lessons they learned from them. One lesson: you don’t need a big church to make a big difference.

“The need for churches as shelter in emergencies is obvious,” said George Cofran, moderator of the BCDRG panel, “there are a lot more of them than there are public facilities, and they can be opened quicker and easier than government buildings. In addition, a church is already in the business of providing care and emotional support to people, which may not be as readily available from a government operation.”

“That’s not to say churches should replace government facilities as shelters,” Cofran added.

Sometimes one fits the need better, sometimes the other, and often a united effort is best.

That cooperation includes small churches working together to provide the different shelter functions.

One may have the building space, while a second can prepare a meal for shelter residents, a third can provide childcare, or transportation, or just contribute some of the needed volunteers.

How does that work? Find out Saturday morning at 9:30 in the Activity Building of the First United Methodist Church, north Avenue N at Pecan in Johnson City.

The panel discussion is free and no advance registration is required.

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