Katrina spurs collaboration in High Point

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Practical and spiritual response in High Point to Hurricane Katrina will be the focus of a conference and benefit concert Nov. 5 and 6 that organizers say could lead to greater collaboration in the region.

With growing concern that donations to Katrina relief efforts could hurt contributions to agencies serving local health and human-service needs, local religious congregations and United Way of Greater High Point have formed a “Community Care Relief Team.”

The Relief Team has planned the conference to address disaster-related issues and the concert to raise money for agencies serving evacuees.

“We want people to help do things to help hurricane victims, but also need help here on the home front,” says Bobby Smith, United Way president. “If all our charitable dollars leave the community and go to New Orleans, all our agencies’ needs won’t be addressed next year.”

Minister Rufus Newlin, associate pastor at Faith, Hope and Love Ministries, says the immediate goal of the new team is to raise funds for Katrina victims who have relocated to High Point.

A longer-term goal, he says, is to foster greater collaboration that bridges gaps in race, culture, gender and religious affiliation.

“Hopefully, it will be an opportunity for people to work together, regardless of their affiliation,” he says.

Newlin and other religious and civic leaders say the Community Care Relief Team represents the first collaboration involving the High Point Ministerial Conference, an alliance of High Point’s African-American congregations, and the local alliance of white congregations.

“This is something that is way past due,” says the Rev. Jeanette Robertson, chaplain at Hospice of the Piedmont and chair of the Greater High Point Ministerial Alliance, which represents white religious congregations.

The conference, to be held Nov. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Koury Building on the Jamestown campus of Guilford Technical Community College, will feature sessions on preparing for storms; their impact on giving; and the role of faith in disasters.

Newlin says each session will offer both physical and spiritual perspectives.

On Nov. 6 at Providence Place at 1727 Westchester Drive in High Point, the Community Care Relief Team will sponsor a concert to raise money for local relief efforts.

Carmen Hooker Odom, state secretary of health and human services, will speak at the concert.

The events grew out of an idea by Gregory Henderson, manager of a local Christian band known as Total Silence, to raise money for Katrina victims who had relocated to High Point, says Newlin.

Newlin and other ministers were enlisted, as was High Point Mayor Becky Smothers, who in turn contacted Smith.

“There are a lot of needs here to begin with, and more so with our new neighbors who have arrived here,” Smith says.

In addition to relocation services provided to them by the local chapter of the Red Cross, he says, an estimated 150 to 200 Katrina evacuees are receiving a range of services from local nonprofit agencies such as Family Services, Developmental Day Care, the Hispanic Center, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater High Point.

United Way is helping to coordinate the conference and concert, and will serve as fiscal agent for funds raised at the concert.

The Community Care Relief Team is a reunion of sorts: Newlin and Henderson both served as loaned executives for United Way of Greater Greensboro in the 1990s when Smith was the organization’s vice president for resource development.

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