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Gainesville charities hurry to help those affected by recent hurricane
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Though Texas is hundreds of miles from Gainesville, local residents are nevertheless heading out to help those devastated by Hurricane Ike.

The storm, which raged over the weekend, has left thousands stranded or in flooded homes without power or clean water.

Some local organizations, such as The Salvation Army and the Georgia Baptist Convention, arrived in Texas Sunday and Monday to help out Texas relief workers.

Members of The Salvation Army left Sunday for Pasadena, Texas, a suburb of Houston.

Capt. Chad Williams said Roger Gasaway and Jeffrey Bonner of The Salvation Army's Gainesville Corps are among approximately 20 people who will spend two weeks in Texas with a mobile kitchen, helping cook and serve food to residents and rescue workers in the area.

The Salvation Army volunteers will be working in conjunction with feeding teams from the Georgia Baptist Convention, said Stuart Lang, the convention's state director for disaster relief.

The Georgia Baptist Convention will also have a communications unit, out of Gainesville, with four volunteers that will be there to help until phone lines and power are restored.

A trailer equipped with handheld radios, computers and antennas will help connect various relief efforts.

"That unit is set up to do primarily hand radio operations," but also has Internet access, Lang said of the communications unit. "It's just a vital piece for us."

They will have four chaplains on site as well.

"They do crisis intervention. Just trying to help people process what's happened and do a lot of listening and helping them talk through it. Of course we always want to present, when we have the opportunity, ... the love and hope of Christ, every chance we get," Lang said.

Lang said the Georgia Baptist Convention also sent a three-person clean up and recovery crew to "blaze the trail," by clearing roads and debris to allow the feeding units to get through. They will also assess needs of homeowners to help them with their cleaning efforts.

But Hurricane Ike hit so recently, the local groups are still waiting to see what is needed in the Houston and Galveston areas.

"The Salvation Army in Texas is responsible for the initial response. ... As they assess the need and the gravity of the situation they begin to call in resources from other states," Williams said.

Cleanup will be ongoing, and Williams said he will be leaving for Pasadena Sept. 28 to work with The Salvation Army's incident command and to help work with other agencies and local governments to coordinate efforts.

Right now, efforts are focused on immediate need.

"The first wave is focused more so on the feeding aspect because that's the immediate need. Usually that transitions into a cleanup and recovery need," Lang said.

The Salvation Army and the Georgia Baptist Convention recommend those interested in supporting the relief efforts send in monetary donations rather than clothing, food or other items.

"I would discourage the donation of goods at this point. Money is always more usable," Lang said. "The problem is, if there's not a system in place to receive and organize and then distribute those goods, they end up getting thrown away."

Williams said The Salvation Army encouraged those interested to donate money to The Salvation Army reference Hurricane Ike, and it will be sent to relief efforts on the Texas coast.

"I'm hearing it's going to be a long term response," Lang said.

This story has been corrected from an earlier version.