Hurricane Katrina survivors head to southwest

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The Salvation Army meets needs of new arrivals at the Arizona Katrina Service Center in Phoenix.


They keep coming––in need of the basics, in need of hope and a listening ear. The Salvation Army is there at the Arizona Katrina Service Center in downtown Phoenix, continuing to minister to those displaced by the hurricanes. A team led by Major Dee Webb including Major John Webb, Major Tom Ford and Capt. Ruth Wilkerson, are listening as they serve, and as always, the stories are compelling.

For one extended multi-generational family there was simply no choice. The chance to leave the flooded city of New Orleans and be near family left little room for doubt. From the 86-year-old matriarch to the wriggling 4-year-old, the trip for these 10 people, most of whom had never been far from home, was a harrowing one. One of their two vehicles sputtered and died at the end of the 1,000-mile journey.

Another family trudged along Interstate 10 to Phoenix with their two 16-year-old autistic twins.

Still others moved to Texas, but had to relocate again when Hurricane Rita struck. They knew people who had gone to Phoenix, so they drove, somber but determined to make a new home in the unfamiliar desert.

Survivors of this incredible disaster are finding hope at the service center and a unique blend of typical disaster responders, including The Salvation Army. Our officers and staff work side by side with church groups, the Red Cross, the State Department of Economic Security, St. Vincent DePaul’s, the local bus company and many others to meet the needs of these exhausted and traumatized fellow Americans.

The Salvation Army office quickly has became the hub of the center; pictures and letters from local school children are displayed on every wall of the small office. Staff and volunteers, as well as clients, from throughout the center continuously find their way to see Dee, John, Ruth and Tom––not Major or Captain. They come not only for assistance, but to hear kind words, see a smile or talk about their lives; they warm to the loving spirits of the Salvation Army personnel who serve in the small room down the hall.

The Arizona Katrina Service Center will continue to serve well beyond its originally scheduled closing. For those of us lucky enough to share the stories and touch the lives of these weary travelers––that will be just fine.

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