Columbus Red Cross Service Center Closes

More than three weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall the Red Cross of Greater Columbus is closing its temporary service center at Piedmont Road. Today, most of the families who used the center’s services are now in permanent housing.

Kim Gordon and Lakeisha McPherson are lifelong residents of New Orleans, Louisiana, but right now they’re calling Columbus home. Heeding evacuation orders, the two, along with other family members, fled the “Big Easy” three days before Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast. Gordon, who has relatives in Columbus, says she used the Red Cross Piedmont Road service center several times for assistance. She says her experience here was much different from the one she had in New Orleans.

Gordon says she does not plan to move back to New Orleans. Instead, she’s trying to convince the rest of her family to take the plunge and move to Ohio. But so far that’s been pretty tough to do.

Leaving behind her mother, sister, grandmother, and uncle, McPherson came to Columbus with her children. She says that because of Katrina most of her relatives have been scattered all over the southeast, and some are experiencing another evacuation.

McPherson also plans to reside in Columbus. She says the friendly residents and employment opportunities have been big incentives to remain in the area.

While both women have not yet had the opportunity to search for jobs, they say they plan to begin doing that next week.

And it’s that kind of progress that local communication director, Lynn Cook, says she likes to hear. Cook says over the past three weeks the local chapter has helped hundreds of families and says the effort was unprecedented. Cook says even though the Piedmont Road location will be closing today, the same services will still be available for any evacuee who comes to Columbus. And with Hurricane Rita barreling toward the Texas coastline she says it’s possible the Piedmont Road center will once again be open.

As of Wednesday, the Red Cross of Greater Columbus assisted more than 565 families displaced from Hurricane Katrina. Of those only 29 remain in temporary housing. Cook says those families should have more permanent homes with in the next few days.