By PRISCILLA GREEAR, Staff Writer | Published September 15, 2005
Various Catholic and faith-based organizations assisting people displaced by Hurricane Katrina in the metro area need everything from phone cards to money for school children’s lunches, and are asking for support from the North Georgia Catholic community.
Catholic Social Services, St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School, Our Lady of Vietnam Church and MUST Ministries, a faith-based organization whose supporters include several Catholic parishes in Cobb and Cherokee counties, are asking for specific donations to better serve evacuee families settling in metro Atlanta.
CSS has been receiving over 100 calls a day and is assisting families with direct aid and referral services. CSS has an immediate need for gas cards; grocery cards for Publix or Kroger and other major chains; Target, K-Mart or Wal-Mart cards; telephone calling cards; all sizes of diapers; and baby formula. It does not need donated clothing or toys at this time, and suggests that clothes be given instead to the St. Vincent de Paul Society.
Margaret Prickett, CSS volunteer coordinator, said many of those calling are moving out of shelters and temporary housing and into more permanent arrangements. They need help with rent and finding jobs. As a result, CSS also needs monetary donations and people who can help transporting furniture to clients’ new homes.
“A lot of people who are lower income are coming here. We’re also getting calls from people who worked for Catholic Charities and schools” in the affected states, she said. “We’re continuing to get calls from people who are going to need help for months and months to set up a new life here. It’s an expensive thing to set up household here.”
St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School in Decatur has enrolled about 30 displaced students from the Gulf region. While tuition and fees have been waived for these students at this and all other archdiocesan schools, St. Peter Claver seeks assistance in supporting the new students and their families in other ways. Specifically, donated school supplies are needed as is support to provide lunches, uniforms and extended daycare for students from the Gulf Coast.
Lucia Sizemore, SPC director of development, said that on Sept. 6 they had one displaced student enrolled and by the end of that week they had about 29.
“It’s been very busy,” she said. “Every grade has got at least three new students and some have several more … We have really made an effort to meet the needs of these people coming to our door.”
She said it has been difficult to see the pain in the faces of parents who are used to being self-sufficient and are now having to ask for help with basic needs for their children. “These are people who had their lives together in New Orleans and now they’re trying to put them back.”
She said they are “an amazing group of students,” and there have been only a few tears shed. One pre-kindergarten student who was nervous needed his cousin, in the sixth grade, to come visit him. On the other hand, Sizemore said, one child from New Orleans, who had enrolled over the summer before Katrina, is now welcoming those who evacuated, and several relocated children came from the same schools.
“These children are dealing with a lot, so we’re trying to be very sensitive to that,” Sizemore said. “They’re just finding one another, and I think that gives them strength. The children are finding old friends and making new friends as they go through the day. Every student gets assigned a buddy and that person is his or her host.”
Our Lady of Vietnam Church in Riverdale is assisting Vietnamese Martyrs Church in Biloxi, Miss. (seen in the cover photo), which is a majority Vietnamese church that also has Hispanic and Anglo parishioners. The Riverdale parish soon will also begin aiding Our Lady of Lavang Church in central New Orleans and seeks donations of canned and other non-perishable food and of money to send to the parishes.
Msgr. Francis Pham Van Phuong, pastor of Our Lady of Vietnam, is leading the efforts and said they are asking that the donations sent to Biloxi be given out to people in need throughout the area. He spoke with his friend, who is the pastor of Vietnamese Martyrs Church, who told him that “the church and (the Chua Van Duc Buddhist) temple are damaged very much, but the people are very united.”
“They feel it’s a time to be together and help each other and celebrate the solidarity and unity and support each other. He sounds very optimistic despite the difficulties,” Msgr. Phuong said. “All the pews were floating and coming out…They look forward to renovating and rebuilding and repairing.”
At the New Orleans parish Msgr. Phuong said the priest “said it’s very damaged with about 10 feet of water inside the church.”
MUST Ministries (Ministries United for Service and Training), a social service organization with three locations in Marietta, Smyrna and Canton for persons in crisis, also has a Katrina Refugee Assistance Program and needs donations of nonperishable and microwavable food, milk crates for storing food, plastic bowls and utensils, baby formula and diapers, new underwear and socks, monetary donations and volunteers.
Joyce Tripp Miller, communications and special events coordinator, said that food distribution is going “extremely well” and that as of Sept. 12 they had provided over 518 evacuee families with boxes of food. They are distributing at their centers and at the Red Cross Service Center at Life University in Marietta. They also need money, as many clients are asking for help with gas and hotel rooms.
“We’re going directly to the families and setting up in the parking lot where they get other services and give them food,” she said. “It’s just wonderful to see how it’s being organized by our staff and volunteers, and to see it getting out directly to the people is really wonderful. Everybody has been so appreciative. They have just been overwhelmed with the kindness they’ve received in Georgia.”
Catholic Social Services, Atlanta
Send to or drop off at:
Archdiocese of Atlanta, CSS
Hurricane Katrina Relief
680 West Peachtree St., NW
Atlanta, GA 30308
Donations accepted: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Parking lot available behind the Catholic Center at Third and Spring Streets.
Contact: Margaret Prickett, volunteer coordinator, at (404) 885-7271
or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.archatl.com.
St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School, Decatur
Send to or drop off at:
2560 Tilson Road
Decatur, GA 30032
Contact: (404) 241-3063 or
Our Lady of Vietnam Church, Riverdale
Send to or drop off at:
Our Lady of Vietnam Church
91 Valley Hill Road
Riverdale, GA 30274
Donations accepted: Fridays, noon-7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
Contact: Msgr. Francis Pham Van Phuong at (770) 471-8453.
MUST Ministries, Marietta
Donations and volunteers are needed at all three locations. Pack donations in boxes of uniform size.
Drop off at:
55 Elizabeth Church Road
Marietta, GA 30060
460 Pat Mell Road
Smyrna, GA 30080
141-B W. Marietta St.
Canton, GA 30169
Checks payable to MUST Ministries and marked for Katrina Refugee Assistance may be sent to P.O. Box 1717, Marietta, GA 30061.
Donations accepted: MUST Marietta, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sunday, 1-5 p.m.; MUST Smyrna and Cherokee, Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
Contact: For large deliveries, contact Pam Gauntner at (678) 218-4487 or Tena Griggers at (678) 218-4488 Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. to notify them. For more information, call (770) 427-9862. To volunteer, press ext. 1112.