How could this happen?
Cincinnatians provide relief and bring survivors to the city

By Tiana Rollinson

Cincinnati Herald Newspaper
Cincinnati, Ohio

September 15, 2005

Pastor Wheeler
Pastor Steven K. Wheeler (2nd from right) and members of Impact Christian Ministries with donated items.

CINCINNATI — Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast with what has been called the worst natural disaster in American history. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin estimated 10,000 deaths. Many local families are looking for relatives, and local citizens are donating at record numbers.

Kamira Jones, a Cincinnati native, was distraught as she watched Hurricane Katrina on television. Her family was in New Orleans. Jones' mother, Michaelle Jones, who lives in Cincinnati, was born and raised in New Orleans and attended college at Xavier. She is searching for two first cousins and their families. Kamira said other family members evacuated to Houston, but the missing cousins stayed behind in New Orleans. “My family lost everything,” Kamira said.

Another Cincinnati native, Quincy Jones, was visiting New Orleans on a family trip to celebrate his mother-in-law's birthday. He was in the Marriott Hotel in the French Quarter when the hurricane hit. Jones escaped with his family and other vacationers after paying a man $500 to drive them to the airport. From there they flew back to Baltimore, Maryland where he currently lives.

“On Saturday, there was a voluntary evacuation issued. Then on Sunday there was a mandatory evacuation,” said Jones. “On Sunday, we tried to leave and everything was closed including the airport.”

He described the scene as troubling. “We didn't get flooded too badly in the French Quarter. We were all fine although some windows were blown out. What troubled me was seeing police and military vehicles going past and not helping people. I guess they were there to stop the looting, but I thought saving lives was more important.” Jones said people were asking for help and the military drove past them.

Local efforts

The City of Cincinnati's local community leaders and everyday citizens are stepping forward to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. Rev. Steven K. Wheeler contacted Dr. Ronald Myers, a missionary physician in the Mississippi Delta, to find out where to take supplies. Wheeler and one of his church members, Butch Mason, in conjunction with Impact Christian Ministries, WCIN 1480 AM and The Cincinnati Herald, collected water, food, diapers, clothing and other necessities and took a truckload to Greenville and Biloxi, Mississippi, and Bogalusa, Louisiana last weekend. Wheeler also distributed to nurses medical supplies donated by Dr. Charles Dillard of Inner City Healthcare in Walnut Hills.

“We saw the devastation - trees it the middle of people's living rooms. Trucks overturned, split in half,” Wheeler said. “We met people who had lost relatives in the flood, and didn't know where other relatives were - they had evacuated to other cities. Whole homes and churches were destroyed and churches were wiped out. Pastors were looking for members.”

Wheeler said many survivors bypassed the American Red Cross. Some complained that the newer clothes were going to the White families, and the older clothes were being given to the Black families. “I saw five to six White people unloading a truck in a nice, untouched area of Bogalusa,” Rev. Wheeler said, “but when I drove 5 to 15 minutes into the deeper part of Bogalusa, there was no Red Cross station.” He said many people went directly to the Black churches and the pastors for help.
At an emergency meeting, Cincinnati City Council directed Assistant City Manager Scott Stiles to coordinate relief efforts. Councilmember Christopher Smitherman left from Jordan's Crossing on Tuesday, Sept. 6, with a delegation of 17. They loaded three buses with supplies collected through the efforts of the community and Rev. Damon Lynch III including his members of New Prospect Baptist Church.

Other contributors were members of Bellarmine Chapel (XU), members of Gaines United Methodist Church (Madisonville), Mr. Bubbles Car Detailing, Dr. Herbert and Barbara Smitherman, Tryed Stone Missionary Baptist Church (Bond Hill), Jostin Concrete Construction, and individual financial donors.

The busses and trip also were sponsored by The Love Foundation and 1230 AM WDBZ radio station. WDBZ personalities Jonathan “Jay” Love, Wayne “Box” Miller and Jeri Tolliver traveled on one of the busses.

Upon arriving in Baton Rogue, Smitherman and his companions distributed supplies to hurricane victims. In a phone call to The Cincinnati Herald from Baton Rouge, Smitherman said survivors are in crowed shelters sleeping next to each other on tiny cots. Many survivors are reluctant to leave the area because they are looking for family members. “There are people lined up at computers, checking to see if their family member is registered with the Red Cross,” he said. “They want to know if their family is dead or alive.” Some are in shock, he added, and think that they can go home and rebuild in two weeks.

Victims relocating to Cincinnati

Smitherman plans to bring some of the hurricane victims back with him to Cincinnati this week. Initially, the evacuees will be housed at the American Red Cross' shelter at the Linwood Elementary School, 4900 Eastern Avenue. The shelter was provided by the Cincinnati Public Schools. The shelter is prepared, said Whitney Ellis, Communications Coordinator for the American Red Cross.

Gov. Bob Taft recently announced that Cincinnati is one of the cities where hurricane survivors will live. Some estimate that there will be hundreds of hurricane victims moving into Cincinnati soon.

“We want families in Cincinnati to adopt people,” Smitherman said. “I am not talking about two weeks. I am talking about a commitment of six months to a year.” He added, “We need to welcome them to Cincinnati with a hot Louisiana meal.”

What's needed now

“They still need clothing,” Rev. Wheeler said. “They still need water. They still need food. They need folks who have skills in carpentry to help repair homes. They need medicines. They also need grief counselors because they have lost family. They've lost loved ones.”

Wheeler, who is a registered nurse, said Dr. Charles Dillard and he are returning in about a week with more medical personnel and supplies.

Rev. Damon Lynch III will continue collecting supplies at Jordan Crossing. Coordinator Iris Roley and her group will leave for the Gulf Coast with another load of supplies on Friday. Roley said, “This will be a year-long effort.”

How you can help with local relief efforts Adopt a Family

The Cincinnati Herald will be adopting families in order to help families to stay together during a time of crisis. We encourage other companies and organizations to adopt families during this time of crisis. Call Councilmember Smitherman's office at (513) 659-0487.

Donate Items

1. The Cincinnati Herald Operation Relief Collection, 354 Hearne Avenue in Avondale. Monday - Friday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Items needed: clothing (underwear must be new), non-perishable food, water, feminine items, baby supplies, and toiletries. The supplies will be taken to hurricane victims in Louisiana and Mississippi by Rev. Steven Wheeler and members of Impact Christian Ministries, and donated to victims relocated to Cincinnati. Rev. Wheeler also will collect items at WCIN 1480 on the corner of Reading and Lexington. Hours TBA. For more info., call (513) 961-3331.

2. Rev. Damon Lynch III's collection at Jordan Crossing in Bond Hill will continue from 12-7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and on Saturday from 12-5 p.m.

3. The James Temple Church of God in Christ, under the leadership of Pastor Joel C. James, located at 1116 Lincoln Avenue in Walnut Hills, is collecting shoeboxes with personal hygiene items: toothpaste, soap, deodorant, and hand sanitizer, tissue, etc. Saturdays - September 10 and 17, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Local affiliated churches in Louisiana will distribute the supplies. For more information: (513) 221-3277 and ask for Jacquie Jordan or Elder Rick Thomas.


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