Agents lend a hand to help massive relief effort in Texas

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GALVESTON, Texas -- Moody Memorial Methodist Church is just one of many facilities in Texas serving as a shelter and temporary home for evacuees from the stricken Gulf Coast.

And Mike Humphrey, co-owner of Cruise Planners in nearby Bayou Vista, along with his wife Mary, is just one of many agents who pitched in to welcome the hurricane victims evacuated from the flood waters and destruction in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

When Humphrey saw the trailer truck with the Katrina Donations sign parked near City Hall, he got to work.

Im a big guy. I retired from Levi Strauss several years ago, and I had lots of jeans and denim, Humphrey said. We cleaned out our closets and took all the bags down to the trailers for the people at the churches.

So did most Galveston-area residents, according to Humphrey.

Moody Methodist is housing 300 evacuees, but so are all the other churches in the area, Humphrey said. The pharmacies are filling prescriptions for free, and the Humane Society is taking care of the animals that came in with hurricane victims. Many people arrived here by car, and there are Louisiana license plates all over town.

The local schools have taken in lots of new students, and were all trying to do what we can to help these people get back to some form of normalcy and routine.

Humphrey feels that the vast majority of the evacuees will not return to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. They tell me that they feel safe here, are much more comfortable and the job prospects look good.

The smokestacks from the cruise ships docked at the port of Galveston were visible from the convention center, which was a staging area for relief supplies.

At press time, it was unclear whether the ships would remain in Galveston to house some of the hurricane victims or would be moved to New Orleans to house emergency workers.

Up the Gulf Freeway in Houston, the volunteer scene was repeated on a larger scale. An agent at Woodlake Travel in the Galleria area volunteered to serve the six-hour breakfast shift that began at 4 a.m. each morning at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

The call went out from a number of churches in the area, asking for volunteers. We had a one-hour training session, divided into groups and set up shifts for the next month, she said. Others are helping them find jobs and housing.

The evacuees got a hot meal of grits, eggs, sausage, bacon, cereal, toast and juice. Theyre very appreciative, very kind and grateful, she said.

At Carlson Wagonlit/Future Travel in Clear Lake, halfway between Houston and Galveston, owner Charlotte Weller said that agency employees had set up a fund to help the hurricane victims and also donated food and clothing.

To contact reporter Gay Nagle Myers, send e-mail to [email protected].

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