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Church Opens Doors as Shelter With Red Cross Help
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Glenda Plunkett
April 27, 2007

Residents of Bound Brook began to feel the crushing blow of flood waters as rivers left their banks and invaded neighborhoods from the April Nor’easter. The local high school rapidly filled to capacity as a shelter and it became ever increasingly apparent that the local Red Cross needed help sheltering the populous. Pastor Louis Kilgore, First Presbyterian Church, jumped into action.

Pastor Lou opens his study as a makeshift shelter for those displaced by storm.(Photo credit: Glenda Plunkett)
Pastor Lou opens his study as a makeshift shelter for those displaced by storm.
(Photo credit: Glenda Plunkett)

Kilgore said, “We want to be part of the community answer to this disaster. We contacted the local Red Cross in the first hours of the flood. When the shelter maxed out at the high school we offered our church and congregation as help. We have walked side by side with the Red Cross from the start. They have supported us from day one, the first hour. They gave us supplies, and not just supplies but every level of support…anything we needed. They were fabulous from the start! Our community had been through his before several years ago. The Red Cross understood the sequence. Whatever we needed was at the ready. It doesn’t work any better than this.”

The pastor continues to talk about the experience as he tells a story about the second night the church’s shelter is in place. Kilgore said that evening a large conversion van drove up pulling a small trailer that contained everything the family owned. The woman driving the van was completely devastated. She said, “I know I can’t park here but will the church let us stay the night? We’ve nowhere to go. My husband has been separated from us by the river. He was working on the other side when the water came up. We can’t get to him. I don’t know what to do.”

Inside her van sat her three sons, one a teenager and the other two were paraplegic. The pastor and another congregation member carried the two boys inside. The pastor responded to the woman, “It’s not every shelter that has valet parking but ours does.” Kilgore parked her van and trailer. The family quickly became favorites in the shelter. He turned a Sunday school room into their own private space.

Kilgore goes on to explain, “I believe that the actions of people who respond to those in need are what change the world.”

Kilgore tells another tale of the church shelter. It was 11 p.m. several days into the flooding when two women knocked on the church door. They were both holding infants and desperate. They had been walking for two days. The shelter manager said the shelter was full but Kilgore opened his own pastoral study to them. Kilgore continues, “I am not completely certain of my doctrine to hell but when you turn away two women with babies, I am pretty sure you are going to hell. I wasn’t about to let that happen.”

As the days went on Red Cross has continued to support the shelter at First Presbyterian. Kilgore explains, “People began to tire. Volunteers from all over the US have helped us. Our congregation and Red Cross workers have worked side by side. They have brought respite to the folks in the shelter and to us. This is the way it is supposed to work. When the local resources are depleted and the local community is exhausted, the Red Cross offers its national resources to continue the relief. It is a beautiful system.”

Kilgore also sings the praises of his congregation. His minister of music found a song that they sang last Sunday. The last two verses are, “To care for all without reserve, we have no mission but to serve.”

Pastor Louis Kilgore and the First Presbyterian Church congregation practice what they preach.

The American Red Cross helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. Last year, almost a million volunteers and 35,000 employees helped victims of almost 75,000 disasters; taught lifesaving skills to millions; and helped U.S. service members separated from their families stay connected. Almost 4 million people gave blood through the Red Cross, the largest supplier of blood and blood products in the United States. The American Red Cross is part of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. An average of 91 cents of every dollar the Red Cross spends is invested in humanitarian services and programs. The Red Cross is not a government agency; it relies on donations of time, money, and blood to do its work.

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