The Disaster Relief Committee at Patterson organized 3 meetings this past Memorial Day, Monday September 5, 2005. The meetings were held in Lake Charles, Louisiana; Bossier City, Louisiana; and Ball, Louisiana. Over 1,200 elders were in attendance from Louisiana, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas. I took horrible notes, but want to share a few things.
The elder opening the meeting emphasized the importance of confidentiality. All cell phones were to be turned off, except theirs in case they received a call from Patterson. Confidentiality was stressed, they don't want family members or publishers to know the details of this meeting. WTS will release reports later through the proper channel.
WTS Disaster Relief called the meeting to inform local elders of what the current situation is and what will be happening in the future.
8 Regional Building Committees (RBCs) are working together as a Hurricane Katrina Relief Committee (HKRC). Patterson is in contact with this group at least twice a day every day planning and organizing.
Day one after the hurricane a few brothers from the HKRC went into New Orleans/Slidell area and began assessing damage to Kingdom Halls. The elders divided parts of southeast Louisiana into zones, my notes are sketchy and memory missing a few points, but in one zone 5 KHs are gone, 2 heavily damaged. Around Lake Pontchartrain 7 KHs are gone, 7 moderate damage, and some with light damage. On day two the brothers did more assessments, but martial law was put in place and they had to leave.
The elder handling one of the parts was very critical of Red Cross. He said the HKRC was going into shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi to identify and get JWs out. At Red Cross shelters they encountered problems, Red Cross officials wouldn't let them in. The brother said Red Cross gets money for every person they shelter so they didn't want JWs leaving the shelter. The elders dressed as if they were evacuees in order to gain entrance into the shelters and then once inside they put on their district convention lapel badges and walked around the shelters. The elder was very proud of this deception, and several elders in attendance seemed satisfied with the ploy. All of the JWs that were in shelters are now in JW homes. There are 3,000 - 4,000 displaced JWs, there are 8 missing from New Orleans. Patterson wants elders to get the name and home congregation of displaced JWs that begin attending KHs in new locations. This point was stressed.
100% of Spanish JWs are accounted for because they were at their district convention, while only 90% of English JWs are accounted for...no doubt because they weren't at their convention. I don't see how those percentages match up to the numbers of missing they gave. Again, I think they are just trying to use this as another means to guilt people into going to the meetings and assemblies/conventions.
WTS says this is the biggest thing they have had to deal with. They need the cooperation of all congregations for Jehovah's glory. The HKRC will organize 40 departments working out of Kenner and Metairie. Patterson has a Communication Center setup in Tulane and 5 satellite offices (30-35 people per office) around the gulf area. These 40 departments will have a total staff of 500 personnel. There is a wireless computer hub being setup in Houston. At this hub, they are developing software just for Katrina relief, and they also have a dedicated line to Patterson. When construction begins on KHs and JW homes there will be approximately 5,000 - 7,000 construction volunteers used. No mention of where these volunteers will come from. My guess is perhaps workers from KH construction and Branch construction.
They concluded by telling us to prepare, offer, and wait for direction. They repeated getting names and congregation info of displaced JWs. And they told us to tell know one of the details of the meeting, and reports will be released through the proper channel.
And so there you have it.