Katrina Relief Efforts Continue on Campus

OBU students, faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in local fund-raising and volunteer opportunities in response to Hurricane Katrina.

OBU Campus Minister Dale Griffin is coordinating volunteer efforts for OBU students, faculty and staff wanting to help through the University’s Campus Ministry.

“The task is far too great to attempt without working together,” said OBU President Mark Brister. “A unified Shawnee effort, with all of us working together, must be OBU’s approach,” said Brister. “As I shared yesterday in Chapel, a mission trip to Houston, Texas, over Fall Free Days has already opened. In addition, I have asked Dale Griffin to organize an appropriate OBU mission trip for summer 2006 to help rebuild.”

Last week, OBU extended its fall semester enrollment deadline to September 12 to accommodate any students affected by Hurricane Katrina wanting to come to OBU. Students requiring more information may contact Carrie Myles, 800-654-3285, in OBU admissions, or e-mail her at carrie.myles@okbu.edu.

OBU's president is part of the local planning team, which includes representatives from Shawnee area churches, health care providers, city government, the Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way, St. Gregory’s University, OBU, and several other local organizations. The group first met on Sunday, Sept. 4, and also met Wednesday, Sept. 7. The group will continue weekly meetings to prepare Shawnee for the possible relocation of Hurricane Katrina survivors to Shawnee.

Over the Labor Day weekend, Oklahoma Baptists prepared Falls Creek to receive up to 3,000 displaced people. However, on Tuesday, September 6, Houston’s Red Cross and government officials suspended immediate relocation efforts and placed Falls Creek on standby status. As of Thursday afternoon, Sept. 8, Falls Creek remains on standby, at the request of Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, at least until Tuesday, Sept. 13. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol, medical personnel, Oklahoma Disaster Relief teams and other government agencies remain onsite at Falls Creek until further notice from the Governor's office.

Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma officials report that there are more than 1,200 volunteers who are prepared to return to Falls Creek within a 12-hour window. Cabins will remain prepared to welcome and accommodate Oklahoma guests until further notice.

“Storm victims are being invited to Shawnee, but they have to choose to be moved here,” Brister added. “It could be weeks before people come, or if the Red Cross and churches house displaced individuals through Texas shelters, they might not utilize Shawnee.”

Don Lynch, director of the Shawnee Emergency Management Department, is coordinating efforts to develop a directory of available services, volunteers and a contingency plan to make the transition of displaced persons into the community as fluid as possible.

The Shawnee Interfaith Hospitality Network, a coalition of churches already assisting homeless individuals in Shawnee, is equipped to assist any people coming to Shawnee. OBU will provide shower facilities as needed, and students and staff will be able to volunteer with local efforts through Campus Ministry.

“We have offered access, with volunteer supervision, to Shawnee Interfaith Hospitality Network aid recipients who will need help filling out FEMA forms online,” said Brister. “Individuals also may need Internet access to locate missing family members, or to apply for federal aid.”

Besides contributing to organizations like the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Red Cross, or the Salvation Army, OBU’s Student Government Association is beginning an OBU-supported fund-raising drive to help with local options. Brister said those funds will likely be directed toward either the Shawnee Interfaith Hospitality Network or the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma’s efforts, depending upon the greatest need.