At Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Nacogdoches Gulf Coastal residents aren't called evacuees. They're referred to as guests. "And good ones," said Father James Young. For nine days the church has provided shelter. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to. In return residents have taken it upon themselves to clean bathrooms, pick up limbs on the grounds and take turns using two showers.
Last week church member Mary Mocniak came to the church to volunteer for a few hours. She has seldom left. "The day of the hurricane we had 800 people sleeping either in the offices or on the property and in the church pews, floor, where ever there was a spot."
Sacred Heart never stopped providing a need, even with the uncertainty of recovering the costs. It's not Red Cross certified. "We had tried to get help from Red Cross, but guess we didn't know the right people," said Mocniak. Father Young is unconcerned. "We aren't even thinking about that. We'll absorb it somehow. We'll go day to day. What's needed is to focus on the persons."
And that's accomplished by being truthful and factual. Consolidation is necessary as support services dwindle. Some ask few questions about moving to a Lufkin church. "We gotta go where they tell us to go," said one evacuee as he carried a plastic garbage bag of sheets and pillows, his only possessions. Others, like Julius Irvin are more adamant about returning to their Port Arthur home. "I don't even know if it's (house) still standing, but I need to go back to Port Arthur. It's as simple as that." And then there are those more realistic. Andre Cooper said, "They were talking about the sewer, the mosquitos and it's unsafe, so I'm going to stay." Yet he doesn't know what he's going to do after the shelter closes. "I'm going with God. Take a little bit at a time."