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Church requests emergency shelter status

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  • Church requests emergency shelter status
    A group from the Lakehills UMC, with Reverend Dawn Baird as speaker, present emergency relief details to the Commissioner’s Court. BULLETIN PHOTO/Cari Golyzniak

Following the eight-day Das Goat fire in Mico that burned over 1000 acres, the collaborated efforts of the Lakehills United Methodist Church (UMC) in aiding the fire evacuees were presented to the Bandera County Commissioners’ Court on April 14, and the church requested the county officially recognize UMC as an emergency evacuation center for crisis and relief efforts.

UMC Reverend Dawn Baird told the court that after the order of evacuation was mandated by Medina County, their church rallied together on March 26 and decided to set up their mission hall as an emergency evacuation center; within about five hours, they had their first person walk in.

Per Baird, they had already received the official recognition from Medina County on March 28.

“We would like for our own county to do that as well. This is not just a UMC project. This is a county-wide community-involved endeavor that we have named Neighbors Helping Neighbors,” said Baird. “We got the idea from Ronald Reagan, who said it best…Our American tradition of neighbor helping neighbor has always been one of our greatest strengths and most noble traditions.”

According to Baird, never has this notion been more true than when on March 26, after UMC used every type of social media to get the word out, for about eight hours, car after car arrived at UMC to donate supplies to evacuees.

Baird added multiple other agencies and others will be part of the Neighbors Helping Neighbors project, such as American Red Cross, Texas Hill Country Emergency Resources, Bandera County Interagency Coalition, Hill Country Samaritans, Lakehills Community Center, Wesley UMC, Boys & Girls Club of Bandera County, surrounding churches and local businesses.

Baird shared, “This is a community endeavor, it is not just a Christian endeavor. Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ goal is to provide proactive, practical support to the most vulnerable survivors of any iconic emergency stemming from natural or civil causes. We will honor cultural differences. We will be aiding people without regard to race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. Everybody has dignity and worth.”

Baird said UMC Mission Hall is best suited for emergency use because it is a multipurpose facility with showers, washers and dryers, a commercial kitchen, internet access, 24/7 security cameras, ample parking and multiple rooms that can be used for a variety of things such as intake for medical needs, children’s play areas, nursery areas, and areas for kenneled animals.

“We can also register with and with FEMA. Not only does it allow for people to search for open shelters, but it also allows the county to receive more state and federal funding as well as United Methodist Committee on Relief, which is our version of the Red Cross. Once we are recognized as a relief center, we can then apply for receiving grants and funding for other critical situations, such as the drought that we are in right now.” She said.

UMC operates two food pantries and serves a weekly community meal with skilled workers who can serve 250 people at a time. The building has four means of egress and a safety team. All volunteers have had background checks, and UMC is gearing up to provide emergency response training.

Commissioner Bobby Harris expressed favor. “I think it’s a great thing that you’re proposing to do this, provided you give a detailed evacuation plan.”

Judge Richard Evans added, “You need to get with our Emergency Management Coordinator to get this annexed. There is a process to get that approved.”

Harris concluded the direction of the court on that day was to have UMC and the Emergency Management Coordinator work together to make this happen.

“This discussion is self-evident that we need to begin this process.” said Evans.