By Shelley Grieshop
A local church is reaching out to Hurricane Katrina victims who still remain without food, shelter and jobs more than a year after their lives were changed forever.
Eight members of St. John Lutheran Church in Celina were stunned when they arrived in Mississippi in April to find homes still in disrepair and people without hope. After arriving home a week later, the St. John Builders group told their story to the congregation, and soon others stepped up to the plate.
"The volume of the need that still exists was overwhelming," said Andrea Kuehne, the church's director of equipping ministries.
Reflecting upon the Biblical story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a few fish and loaves of bread, the theme "Think Big, Feed with $5,000" was coined by the church. Over a period of several weeks, $4,000 was raised and Thrivent Financial for Lutherans kicked in an additional $1,000.
The church, known for displaying unusually large creations on its front lawn, placed a handcrafted elephant on the church property along North Main Street to proclaim the "think big" message. An area merchant offered to sell supplies at a discount, and a semitrailer with volunteer drivers was donated to transport everything church members could gather. The truck will be loaded up Saturday at the church before heading south to Ocean Springs, Miss.
"The semi will contain food and personal items, along with school supplies and diapers from the church youth," said Andrea Kuehne, the church's director of equipping ministries.
Ladies from St. John's Sewing Circle donated lap robes and more than 170 comforters. These same crafters sent 177 comforters to Mississippi last year.
All the supplies will go to a central operations' base called Camp Victor, where 400 meals are still served to the needy each day. The base camp also houses a food bank and general distribution center and uses a semi-load of food and supplies weekly to serve area residents' needs.
St. John is seeking help from other area churches and organizations who would like to help continue the ministry. For more information on what type of help and supplies are needed, the public can access www.campvictor.com.
Hurricane Katrina was the costliest and one of the deadliest hurricanes in the history of the United States, striking Florida before causing massive devastation along the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm has been blamed on killing at least 1,836 people, making it the deadliest hurricane since 1928. More than 700 people remain listed as missing in Louisiana, so the victim count could still climb more than a year later, according to officials.