WHILE SHE WAS WORKING IN THE NINTH WARD, SHE MET PASTOR WARREN JONES, A MAN WHO HAD STAYED BEHIND TO WATCH OVER AND CARE FOR THE PEOPLE OF HIS DEVASTATED PARISH. SHE WAS DEEPLY INSPIRED BY THIS MAN’S TIRELESS FAITH. REBECCA OBSERVED THAT RESOURCES WERE NOT COMING TO THE AREA, THAT THE PEOPLE WERE NOT BEING HELPED, AND THAT SOMETHING MORE NEEDED TO BE DONE.
Dr. Rebecca Hage Thomley has been a volunteer with the American Red Cross for over twelve years. In her most recent assignment, she was sent to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina to work as a psychologist.
Initially, Rebecca was assigned to a shelter in Lafayette where people who lived in the bayou came to stay. She also provided mental health support to her fellow Red Cross volunteers. Next, Rebecca was assigned to the New Orleans airport, where she worked with the people returning to the city for the first time, providing them with mental health intervention. Many of the people were overwhelmed as they faced with the devastation of their city and homes and needed support.
Finally, Rebecca was assigned to New Orleans’ Ninth Ward when it first opened and people were able to return to their homes. All of her experiences were powerful, but it was in the Ninth Ward that the total devastation and loss broke her heart.
While she was working in the Ninth Ward, she met Pastor Warren Jones, a man who had stayed behind to watch over and care for the people of his devastated parish. She was deeply inspired by this man’s tireless faith. Rebecca observed that resources were not coming to the area, that the people were not being helped, and that something more needed to be done. Rebecca decided to take action. She told Pastor Jones that she’d be back and that she would bring help.
When Rebecca returned to Minnesota, she turned to the people with whom she works at Orion Associates, Meridian Services, Zenith Services, and Orion Intermediary Services Organization. She described for them the incredible the need that she had witnessed and asked for volunteers who were willing to return with her to offer help. When Rebecca returned to New Orleans, three weeks later, over Thanksgiving weekend, she brought with her thirty-four people and a semi-truck load of supplies.
Inspired by overwhelming need and a desire to serve, this ongoing relief effort has become what we call “A River of Hope.”