The members of a local church knew there was too much to be done in Katrina's wake for the established relief organizations to do. So they decided to fill in the gap and send help in as many ways as possible.
First Baptist Church of Thomson has partnered with the First Baptist Church of Pascagoula, Miss. - which is still intact - to send much needed food, beverage and toiletry items to those on the gulf coast who lost everything.
But it wasn't enough for them to simply act as a collection point. Church members have assembled teams that will take the items to Pascagoula, help distribute them and assist in the cleanup effort in surrounding neighborhoods.
"We're sending down five different teams, and they will each go down, and they will help these homeowners clean out their homes and tear out the debris so that that can start to dry out," said First Baptist Pastor Jim Ramsey.
A team of eight church members will make the trip to the gulf coast on Sunday. The next four teams will travel to help in the cleanup effort in the following four weeks. A trailer-load of equipment was donated for the teams to use while on site in the disaster area.
Those making the trip will be housed in First Baptist Pascagoula, and the church members there will feed the volunteers. Members of the church there will direct the Thomson volunteers to the areas of greatest need.
First Baptist of Thomson decided to help out in its own way on top of what the Georgia Baptist Convention's Disaster Relief teams are helping. That group is equipped to feed large numbers of people as well as remove debris from homes and property.
"The Georgia Baptist disaster relief is doing a great work in both of those areas," Dr. Ramsey said. "But we are going to go on our own because we have not been certified by the Georgia Baptists. é─ÂThere's so much need in this area. The disaster is so widespread and so huge, there are other churches that are accepting partnerships with other churches to come and help them do the work in their area."
Dr. Ramsey said many church members plan on attending the Georgia Baptist training for disaster relief in Augusta in January.
Anyone wanting to donate to the relief effort can take items to the trailer in the First Baptist parking lot. Items needed are cases of sports drinks, soft drinks and water, diapers, paper towels, baby wipes, toilet paper, pre-mixed baby formula and baby food, box juices, air mattresses and cereal bars.
The church is also collecting personal hygiene packages that include soap, tooth brushes, tooth paste, towels, wash cloths and combs for the nearly 300 evacuees that are being housed at Rock Eagle in Eatonton.
"We plan to take that over there in about another week or two. We've already gotten about 100 of those, and we had a great response last Sunday night in church," Dr. Ramsey said.
Donations of money can also be made to help fund the First Baptist Katrina relief effort. Make checks out to Thomson First Baptist Church Disaster Relief. Dr. Ramsey said all of that money will go directly to the help the people affected by the hurricane.