With hundreds of thousands still without electricity, gasoline, water, and other relief in the Gulf Coast regions of Texas and Louisiana, the Salvation Army is stretching their arms wide to provide services to as many devastated cities as possible.
Rita has dealt a blow to those already suffering and we are responding with emergency food, water, and shelter to points all along the coast, Major Gene Hogg, deputy commander of Salvation Army divisional relief efforts, said in a statement released Monday. Seventeen canteens and more than 100 volunteers and officers are leaving for Lake Charles.
The Army currently has more than 40 locations in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi where survivors may receive care from food, shelter, clothing and essentials to vouchers and debit cards.
In addition there are more than 100 mobile kitchens going out to neighborhoods with food and water, and over 7,000 Salvation Army personnel have been dispersed to affected areas.
According to the Associated Press, about 476,000 people remained without electricity in Texas on Tuesday, in addition to around 285,000 in Louisiana.
John Owens, emergency management coordinator for Port Arthur, told AP that people have been living like cavemen, sleeping in cars, doing bodily functions outside.
Meanwhile, Hogg said that the Salvation Army is finding more tragedy as they go deeper into the devastated regions.
The need is great. Everyday we are finding areas that havent seen any help, said Hogg. Out of our Biloxi service center, the farther west we go the more tragedy we encounter. In one small town we served 900 meals.
The deputy commander said that he had not anticipated Ritas destruction to be so severe, but noted that the Army will respond for as long as needed.
We had expected to start recovery efforts of cleanup by this time, Hogg explained. The flooding and the winds have changed that in many places. Our response will last for many months. The Salvation Army has permanent services in place to respond for as long as needed.
While giving final instructions to his crew on Monday, Hogg described the essence of The Salvation Armys disaster mission.
You are the presence of God to the people you will serve and what they will remember is the compassion you show as you provide food and listen to their stories, said Hogg. Yesterday as I sat next to a gentleman at our feeding station in New Orleans I said, How are we treating you? He said, If it wasnt for The Salvation Army I would be dead right now. I was the only one left in my neighborhood and they came for me.
To date the Salvation Army has served more than 4 million meals and assisted more than 500,000 people in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. They have also served survivors from both Katrina and Rita in many states throughout the country.
The Salvation Army currently runs the second-largest disaster relief operation in the country behind the American Red Cross.
To donate to The Salvation Army, go to www.salvationarmyusa.org or call 1-800-SAL-ARMY.