18 Evacuees Find New Home in Aiken

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September 15, 2005
For a lot of evacuees, it’s hard trying to start over when you’re being moved from one shelter to another. But a church in Aiken sent a van to Atlanta and brought back 18 people. News 12 is on your side to show you what they thought would be a pit stop on their road to recovery and turned out to be their new home.

“I like the town, it’s very nice, the people are very nice, it’s a wonderful place. I think I’m making a move,” said Ronald Lawson.

Up until a few days ago, Ronald Lawson had never even heard of Aiken, South Carolina. But now it’s a place he’ll have plenty of time to become acquainted with.

“I’m from New Orleans, but I’ve made up my mind. I’m gonna relocate here,” Lawson said.

He’s one of what he calls the lucky 18, 18 folks who hopped on a church van after being moved around from shelter to shelter now finding a place in Aiken they can finally call home.

“The congregation jumped in and said this is something that we feel led to do and resources began to just pour in, bedding, clothing, food, cash. It was just amazing,” said Terry Fleming, St. James United Methodist.

And it really is amazing. They’ve turned a gymnasium into a not so typical hurricane shelter offering food and books. But what most people say they appreciate most is peace and quiet.

“You can’t beat this, you can sleep and you don’t have all these people running around. It’s quiet, it’s nice, it’s comfortable,” Lawson said.

And that’s enough to keep Lynn Johnson smiling. She and her husband have been here for four days and besides this little guy and the one on the way, they have something else to be smiling about.

“I’ve got a job since I’ve been here and a job with the school board and a house,” said Melvin Johnson.

And it’s those smiles that make the folks at St. James United Methodist even happier to help. They’re now getting ready to set up most of these evacuees with furnished apartments and the church says even though this shelter is temporary, what they are giving these folks is anything but that.

"We are with them and beside them for the long haul," Fleming said. "If they want to stay in Aiken and start their lives over, we want to be with them."

Members of the church also say they are planning on providing transportation for the evacuees to and from work until they get back on their feet. And some of the evacuees say they are even planning on becoming members of the church.