Lay minister drawn to help Katrina victims
As Peachez Joles heard more and more details about the horror left in Hurricane Katrina's wake, she knew she needed to respond.
On Friday, the Jarbalo area resident completed a one-day American Red Cross training session in Kansas City. And on Monday, she flew to Mobile, Ala., where she will work as a volunteer for three weeks.
"I've always had my heart in the care of people, and after seeing it on TV, it sounded like the need was there," said Joles, who is a former associate pastor at Tonganoxie United Methodist Church.
So Joles linked up with the Red Cross. Originally, she was slated to leave on Tuesday, but her daughter, Estee Willis, Tonganoxie, said Joles flew to Mobile early Monday morning.
On Friday, after her training session, Joles said she anticipated she would work more as a regular volunteer distributing food and other commodities than as a lay pastor. But she said she would like to return to the Gulf coast after this three-week stint, and that's when she likely would put her counseling skills to more use, working with residents displaced by the hurricane that struck last week.
"At first, when they come into a shelter, they're what she (the Red Cross trainer) called a honeymoon period," the 62-year-old lay minister said.
"They're so relieved to have a safe place to sleep, a roof over their head and three meals a day, and being safe. Once the honeymoon is over, then there's a 'what's going to happen to me next?'
"That's when they're going to be needing pastors or even just regular volunteers to listen to them and let them know that we do care and we're there because we care. That's why I'm there. Because I care."
Willis said she wasn't sure when -- or if -- she would hear from her mother.
"She said she won't be able to call home," Willis said.
Joles will be back in about three weeks -- in time, she hopes, for her husband's retirement from General Motors on Sept. 30.
"I thought: If I'm going, I've got to do it now so I can be back in time for his retirement," she said.
And then, she'll likely head back south.
Before she left Kansas, Joles had a long list to go over. She needed to be inoculated for hepatitis A and tetanus.
And among the items packed into her two suitcases -- which she needed to be able to carry herself -- were anti-diarrhea medicine, toilet paper, a personal first-aid kid, a water-proof poncho, insect repellant, sun screen a hat, flashlights and batteries.
"In fact, they even suggest we take our own water -- take a case of water -- because they cannot guarantee us that where we're going we'll have water," Joles said.
She also was advised to take sturdy, waterproof shoes or hiking boots -- "there are snakes in the water," she said -- and long pants that aren't jeans.
"It's just like going camping," Joles said, who this summer attended a United Methodist camp for disabled youths.
"At least at camp, we had something to sleep on."
She had one request of area residents.
"Ask for prayers, not just for the volunteers, because there are lots of them, but also the people we're going to have to work with," she said. "They've lost everything. And they've lost hope."