Kansas West churches help neighbors caught out in cold
Utility poles lean under the weight of ice near Satanta. (photo by Trena Slater)
By Susan Cooper
Kansas West Connection editor
In the frozen wake of a major winter storm, members of United Methodist churches in western Kansas are helping each other and their neighbors. Utility poles were downed by ice and wind, leaving thousands without electricity--and in some cases, without running water--for several days. Some areas of the state were buried under several feet of snow. The storm brought loss of human and animal life as well as untold property damage.
But the crisis rallied people together in a spirit of unity and cooperation.
Healy United Methodist Church is serving as the emergency shelter for Lane County. People began coming into the church Saturday afternoon, Dec. 30, needing shelter. Hays District Superintendent Bob Cousins said church members and community residents have been serving three meals a day to local people and also to crews working to restore power in the community, since there�s no restaurant in town. The church was without power until the evening of Jan. 4.
�They�ve been running off a generator,� Cousins said.
Rev. Jim Brackett, pastor at Healy UMC, said the church has served as a command center for the community.
�We�re helping people who
A farmer near Leoti tries to herd cattle toward a location with access to food and water. (photo by Rev. Rick Just)
The church also served as an overnight shelter.
�We actually had up to 10 people staying each night. We had some elderly people that need oxygen, and a couple with a baby stayed,� Brackett said.
Healy UMC member Bill Taldo said, �We�ve been doing a lot of praying. This church has put up the whole town of Healy. This has been the headquarters for generator installation, the rescue squad and sending water trucks out to cattle.�
Cousins� concern is for the rural areas that could be without electricity for several weeks.
�There�s a four-mile stretch west of town on Highway 4 with 31 power poles broken,� he said.
In Sublette, a community shelter was set up at the American Legion building. Members of Sublette United Methodist Church have helped cook meals for people without electricity, said church member Barbara Schmidt. Although the town�s power was restored Jan. 3, surrounding rural areas may be without power for four to six weeks.
First United Methodist Church in Dodge City has collected supplies donated by church members and will serve as a drop-off location if a call for additional supplies is issued by the Dodge City District office.
Quinter United Methodist Church in Gove County has been a shelter for people with no electricity, no food and nowhere to go. The town was without power until Jan. 3, and the residents rallied together to help whomever was in need.
The church served 30 to 50 meals Jan. 1 and 10 people stayed overnight. The numbers increased dramatically by Jan. 3, with 568 meals served and 25 people who spent the night.
The members of Quinter United Methodist Church have been joined by people of other denominations to cook and serve the meals.
�We have German Baptists, Catholics, Church of the Brethren, Mount Pleasant Baptist and Methodist volunteers at the church,� Quinter UMC member Donna Gillespie said. �We have plenty of people coming and going all the time. It�s really a community effort.
�We�re serving anyone who wants a meal,� she said. �People are emptying their freezers and donating the food. The grocery stores donated food, the Dairy Queen. We�re encouraging people to come have a meal and enjoy the fellowship.
�Everybody�s exhausted, but it�s a good exhaustion,� Gillespie said. �It�s just a Christian effort.�
Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones has issued an appeal for disaster funds.