The last of our GFC “Camp Ike” campers left yesterday. At our peak, we had just under 700 people in Bruceville. The families that we housed were very grateful to the Red Cross and the Camp for providing a home away from home. The Red Cross team that was here made us a huge poster and named up “The Best Shelter Ever”.
Currently, we are housing teams of Red Cross volunteers working in shelters around the area, and we’ll be doing that into the foreseeable future.
A lot of people worked very hard to pull this project together. Special thanks go to the GFC staff who volunteered their time to be here and members of the camp community who turned out to help those in need:
Kitchen Staff: Judy Strickland JoNell Strickland Maria Gutierez Tina Castillio Leova Martinez Roza Salazar Roza-Maria Salazar Raul Mora Noellia Salazar
Housekeeping Staff: Fransisca Martinez Elva Aldava Manuela Alvarez Carmela Fernandez
Maintenance Staff: Andreas Vasquez Chito Vasquez
Others: Andrew Gamson Helen Richard Shlomit Weinberg Ben Andes Sarah Andes Rachel & Mike Satterwhite Jan & Charles Hart John and Donna Bowling Sheila & Loui Dobin Ana Bonnheim Stefani Rozen Ted Cera
In the meantime, everyone here is thrilled that we were given this opportunity to serve our community.
Sunday, September 14th, 2008 Phase One of “Camp Ike” continues. We have been told that Red Cross will probably keep us open for another day or two. We still have a few hundred clients here. Their counties have asked them not to return home due to road conditions and the lack of power, water, sanitary facilities, etc. We don’t have much more info than that right now, BUT camp Ike is still in business, and will now be joined by some members of our Houston-area congregations.
Yesterday was an eventful time. The remnants of Ike passed through our part of Central Texas bringing high winds, little rain, and no damage. We provided a full schedule of activities for our families, as well as an evening program and, of course meals and snacks. People here are incredibly grateful and have been thanking us profusely. The GFC staff is doing a remarkable job on very little sleep.
Also yesterday, we were visited by Michael Solka, GFC Chairman, who pitched in and helped out, and Rabbi Alan Freedman and his wife Lori from Austin Beth Shalom. The Freedmans brought Rabbi David Saperstein, the Director of the URJ Religious Action Center. David got to see Religious Action in action! Her honor, Virginia DuPuy, the mayor of Waco, also stopped by to thank all of us for the job that we were doing. The Freedmans, Rabbi Saperstein, and the mayor, were given a tour of camp by the Michael Solka and the staff.
We are beginning to receive calls from some congregants in the Houston area. Many are without power and water, and are looking for a place to stay, now that the hurricane has come through. We’ll keep you posted.
All of the people are from the Texas gulf coast. San patricio county is the first county with a mandatory evacuation, they all went to McLennan County (ours) and were placed here. After that we began to receive people from Galveston and Houston. We are up around 700 people and have stopped accepting all but emergency cases.
We have been serving three meals a day, and snacks all day long. We have enough food to last through mid-day Monday, and will be ordering more, based on how many people will still be here as the new week begins. The Red Cross just had a few hundred MREs (meals ready to eat, for you non-military types) delivered that heat themselves, just in case we lose power. Obviously, that's the last thing we need (lost power and the MREs).
Right now, members of our summer camp counselor staff are running a family activities program for everyone that includes sports, games, movies, arts & crafts, etc. Last night we had a campfire. I sang, we led some cheers, roasted marshmallows, and had a great time. It is a very diverse crowd ethnically and everyone is getting along, at least as much as possible under the circumstances. We have a media room with computers, newspapers, and a 60" plasma TV screen, tuned to CNN and the weather channel.
We received a visit this afternoon from the Mayor of Waco, Virginia DuPoy. She came to observe the relief efforts at camp and to visit with volunteers and the families currently living at camp. We also received a visit from the Director of our Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., Rabbi David Saperstein, who is in Texas this weekend.
Red Cross volunteers with Mayor of Waco, Virginia DuPuy (1 of 4)
The URJ Greene Family Camp is once again a significant part of the Texas evacuation effort. Beginning last week, Loui met with emergency management officials and managers at the American Red Cross. Hundreds of families from the Texas Gulf Coast have been arriving in Bruceville Texas since Wednesday, sent here by the American Red Cross. Hundreds more are expected. Currently, the population is 400 and is expected to grow, reaching 700 individuals tonight. In addition to families fleeing the coast, GFC is housing many of the teams of Red Cross volunteers who are serving other shelters in Central Texas.
The Greene Family Camp staff is doing a remarkable job keeping up with the myriad needs of the Red Cross shelter managers and their clientele. Stefani Rozen and Ted Cera, in particular, have been working directly with the Red Cross to make this happen. Our entire Kitchen, Maintenance, and Housekeeping crews have been involved throughout, allowing us to provide this service to the community. Beginning today, Friday, members of our summer camp and counselor staff will begin to arrive and organize programming for the children who are here.
In addition to utilizing all of our camper and staff housing facilities, we have moved hundreds of cots into our two recreation halls (the Moadon and the Beyt Ha’am). Our other program spaces are being used for activities and as lounges.
Three seasons ago, Greene Family Camp played a major role in the Hurricane Rita evacuation and relief effort, operating “Camp Rita” serving hundreds of residents of the Texas coast. Some of them are back with us for “Camp Ike”.
Greene’s sister camp in the URJ Southwest Council, The Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica Mississippi has been an integral part of the relief efforts surrounding hurricanes Katrina and Gustov.