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ACU students aid evacuees in Cisco

ACU student Brad East (right), sophomore Biblical text major from Austin, talks with New Orleans evacuee Herman Youngblood, 15, after playing basketball at Lake Cisco Christian Camp on Thursday.

Sept. 7, 2005

As Hurricane Katrina evacuees were waking up at Lake Cisco Christian Camp Thursday morning, Abilene Christian University students were ready and waiting for a chance to serve them.  Twenty-five undergraduate students and 12 graduate students arrived at the camp this morning to welcome the hurricane victims brought to Cisco.

A collaborative effort by Cisco Church of Christ and Eastland County resulted in 48 evacuees being bused to Cisco to be housed at Lake Cisco Christian Camp.  The first round of evacuees arrived at 3:15 a.m., and the second round arrived at 4:30 a.m.  Officials spent the night preparing and awaiting their arrival.

Dr. Robert McKelvain, professor of psychology, lives near the camp and decided to help.  McKelvain organized announcements asking for students to volunteer with him at the camp and then worked with Dr. Wayne Barnard, associate provost of student development and dean of campus life, to organize the students into groups and help get them training.  The students were trained by the American Red Cross of Abilene and are now certified to volunteer in emergency situations such as Hurricane Katrina. 

McKelvain also found graduate students studying psychology and related fields to help assess needs and offer counseling to families. The undergraduate students spent their time entertaining the children of the families with games, movies and other activities.

"The students are excited to be here," Barnard said.  "They love kids and want to do whatever possible to help.  The families seem thankful to be here.  I think they’re grateful to have a place to be."

Helping victims connect with other family members has been one of the most critical projects volunteers in Cisco have helped with, said Mark Lewis, director of spiritual life and student ministries.  Lewis helped check evacuees into the camp when they arrived.  Using the American Red Cross Web site and cell phones, evacuees in Cisco have been able to call and check in with other family members. 

"We want to let them know we are here to help them," Lewis said. 

Businesses from local communities have been eager to help as well.  Circuit City and Best Buy donated enough televisions and DVD players for each cabin to have its own set.  A large screen TV was also donated for the dining hall. The dining hall, which is the only air conditioned building at the camp, is serving as a community center. 

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