Most evacuees from shooting neighborhood have left Modesto relief center
Apr 13, 2012 (The Modesto Bee - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
About 30 adults and children evacuated from the Whispering Woods complex spent Thursday night at the nearby Prescott Evangelical Free Church. Church and Red Cross volunteers had turned the sanctuary into a makeshift dormitory.
By 10 a.m. Friday, most of the families had been allowed to go home, said Red Cross volunteer Carol Willis. About 12 people -- those who lived closest to the home destroyed by fire -- were waiting for a Modesto Police detective to arrive and update them on when they could return.
Other evacuated families who had stayed with relatives or friends also were drifting into the church Friday morning, seeking news.
Rebecca Ciszek, regional Red Cross manager, said the agency served 150 dinners Thursday night to evacuated families and law enforcement personnel. She credited nearby Davis Park Church of Christ volunteers for helping to prepare and deliver the meals, and said the hit of the evening came when The Gamer's Network in downtown Modesto arrived with three flat-screen TVs and video games and movies for the children.
"They separated the older kids from the younger kids for the games and stayed until about 10 or 10:30 (p.m.)," Ciszek said. "It was like magic! What a relief for the parents and the kids after sitting around for hours."
Then, she added, "The Pizza Guys walked in about 10:30 last night with 17 pizzas and hot bags of garlic bread. You'd think people would be full after eating all day, but it was like a midnight snack. The pizzas were gone in minutes. It was totally unsolicited. They just came in and said, 'You're in our neighborhood. We had to do this.' "
That kind of generosity poured into the church all day, Ciszek said.
"SaveMart sent a pickup truck full of things and then sent a second truck down to the command center. We had a woman show up with a case of toilet paper. Not everyone would think of that need. We were able to do the relief work because of the generosity in the community.
"We have an extremely compassionate community. There are horrific things that happen, and you can't change that. We lost two lives yesterday. That impact is felt by all of us. We lost a deputy. He actually was a Red Cross CPR instructor, so we lost a friend to the Red Cross. But we are committed to our community and are grateful we were able to provide service here. I would hate to see the day when we don't have a Red Cross in our community. That's not going to happen."
Besides working at the church, Ciszek said the agency also is beginning to work with the three other families that lost their homes when Thursday night's fire destroyed the fourplex where the alleged gunman was living.
"We'll be providing direct assistance to them for housing and other needs," she said. "I know there will be needs that those families will have to replace the things they lost, but we don't do that part. I'm hoping we can work with the agencies like Advancing Vibrant Communities and help coordinate that effort."
The Rev. Vince Deagler, senior pastor at Prescott, said the church had not been on the list at Red Cross to provide emergency shelter, but they would be signing up to do so.
"We got the call because someone knew we were right here," he said. "How do you say no to a request like that? We're a church. We're here to meet the needs in our neighborhood."
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