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Pastor looks to help storm victims

One Rutledge pastor is hoping to help evacuees that fled the fury of Hurricane Katrina earlier this week.

Ira Walton, minister of Crenshaw Community Baptist in Rutledge, wants to organize area churches to provide shelter for those people cut-off from their homes along the Gulf Coast.

"Luverne bills itself as the "the Friendly City,'" said Walton, who is also a policeman in Luverne. "I think history should record that we stood up to be counted in this hour of need and that we helped these people."

Hurricane Katrina blew ashore on Monday as a Category 4 storm, decimating parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Biloxi and Gulfport, in Mississippi, bore the brunt of Katrina's estimated 25-foot storm surge and 145 mph winds. New Orleans - long feared by experts as a nightmare waiting to happen during hurricane season - was spared a direct hit, but levees that protect the Big Easy against rising water from the Mississippi River, massive Lake Ponchatrain and the gulf waters as well, were breached.

By Tuesday over 80 percent of New Orleans was underwater.

Walton said he has spoken with several evacuees who found shelter in hotels in Greenville, Troy and Luverne's St. Charles and Turner motels. However, Walton knows these same people won't be able to afford a six-week stay in a hotel, which is how long experts think it may take before residents can return to New Orleans and other devastated parts of the coast.

"They don't have much money and they can't stay in a hotel for that long," he said. "I'm trying to organize something through the churches where families in the county would accept these people into their homes, for only a little while."

Walton wants any church wishing to participate to contact him at 335-5811 for more information.

He said the horror stories emerging from New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath urged him to act.

"They showed a young man on the news who had lost his wife," he said. "The water had come up and forced them out of their home. He was holding on to her, but she told him to let her go and take care of the children. He lost her."