Rev. Marshall Hatch along with Rev. Jeannette Wilson, Rev. Ira Acree, Rev. Bernard Lily and Rev. Sterling Pollard held a brief press conference Sept. 4 before hitting the highway. As church members, organizations, business owners and friends bid them a safe journey, Rev. Hatch described the reason for the trip.

“We’re on our way to a place called Rayne, Louisiana. We’ve contacted a shelter there. Our conviction is that of course there are large donations being sent to the South in places where there are a lot of people. There are a lot of forgotten places like Lafayette and Rayne, so we’ve establish contact. We can do work there. If everybody does a little bit, all the work will be done, all of the people will receive some kind of help, also have hope. I think it’s important that all of us understand that it could have been us in that condition. We’re just grateful to God”it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.”

Rev. Jeannette Wilson added, “I’m going as a woman because so many of the victims are women and children. And we’re joining with the Westside Ministers Coalition. I’m the international sunday school broadcast and associate pastor of First Baptist Congregational. Our concerns are about reconstruction of the hopes and dreams of the people who have lost all of the material things. We come in the name of Jesus Christ who is able to bring and restore wholeness to broken places.”

Rev. Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Holiness M.B. Church (1256 N. Waller) stated, “I’m one of the co-chairs of this relief effort on the West Side. I’m very excited, in the midst of this devastation, that some of our pastors and leading ministers have come together to give support. We want to go to Rayne. Louisiana is a vacation spot for many of us. This time we go in the midst of trauma, hoping to bring some rescue and relief to this other site that happens to be on the outskirts of Baton Rouge. You can still help us by sending resources to Greater St. John Church, New Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church, Jordan Temple Baptist Church. There are several other churches. We’re just doing our best to try and help them. It’s their hour now. You never know when our turn will come.”

Vera Davis, president of Westside Branch NAACP said, “We’re here to salute and congratulate the West Side ministers as they come together to bring the goods and services to those people who are down to the bare minimum. They do not have anything. These are not refugees; these are our sisters and our brothers. We have to feed those who need to be fed and clothed, and provide shelter for those who need shelter. This is not a one-day effort or a one-week effort; this is for the long haul. We’re just looking forward to being able to open our hearts, our homes and our pocketbooks to them.

Bishop C.L. Sparks, pastor of New Pleasant Valley International Cathedral, stated, “There are many families that have already contacted us about relief in Chicago. So many of our churches have opened up shelters. This morning in church I found there is a family that just got here, and we contacted the American Red Cross and they’re trying to get them some cots, get them some food. Victims and their families are coming to Chicago, and we have buses going along with Bishop Larry Trotter to bring those people back so that we can have a place for them to be. We’re happy to be a part of this effort.”

African Accent proprietor Stacia Crawford, one of the business people who came out to support the ministers’ relief effort added, “I’m out here because I think we need to show our brothers and sisters in the South that we’re here for them. This is the first time this has happened to them, but it may not be the last time. You never know when we may need somebody, so it’s time for us to donate our time, our money, our service, whatever it is that we have. I think that this is a great way to show how grateful we are to have what we have and give a little bit to our brothers and sisters; many of them who don’t have anything, absolutely nothing.”

Afri-Ware’s, Nzingha Nomo, African Accent’s Malcolm & Stacia Crawford, and Old St. Paul Baptist Church, where Rev. Paul Jakes, Jr. is pastor, were all instrumental in opening their doors and serving as drop-off facilities for the West Side relief effort.

Update: Rev. Hatch and his team arrived in Rayne, La., where many people were living in tents, and the shelter where they delivered items reportedly was overwhelmed with joy seeing what the ministers brought to them. Rayne is located in Acadia Parish, with a population of approximately 8,700. It is know as “Frog capital of the world.”