Red Cross needs more East Texas shelters

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Sheltering evacuees is a temporary challenge, but one a local organization is asking East Texans to undertake.

"We lose shelter space over time," American Red Cross Branch Manager Glenna Harkness said. "There are different reasons. A church may have a split internally, they may have an older population that doesn't feel they have the manpower to run a shelter."

The Deep East Texas Chapter of the American Red Cross sent out a letter hoping local groups would agree to shelter evacuees.

Currently 30 facilities are listed as shelters for Lufkin and Nacogdoches. Together they hold about 7,000 evacuees, down from 10,000 in years past.

Pastor Jeff Robinson's Southside Baptist Church in Lufkin has been a shelter for several years. He admits it's not always easy.

"Five days before we housed 300 evacuees, this was brand new carpet," Robinson said pointing at a heavily stained floor. "Within the weeks that they were here, it looked like this. So, we just didn't worry about it, our folks are great."

Even outside, spots in the parking lot have been damaged from housing and feeding evacuees, but Robinson said that's something you have to look past.

"There is a great opportunity to serve and sometimes you know that nothing is going to come out of it for your benefit other than being obedient to the Lord," Robinson said. "But in addition to that, you can offer them the opportunity to be involved in a worship service."

Across town, Senior Pastor Randy Brown also runs a shelter at Calvary Baptist Church.

"It has just been something that's very difficult, but at the same time has been very rewarding as a church," Brown said.

A predicted, "above normal" hurricane season is only one reason they need more places for evacuees.  East Texans displaced from fires and even ice storms create a growing need for available shelters.

The Red Cross does partner with the shelters.

If you're interested in becoming a sheltering facility, contact your local branch of the American Red Cross (936) 634-6013.

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