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April 12, 2012

Church opens doors to evacuees from Modesto neighborhood where 2 were killed

Members of the Prescott Evangelical Free Church opened their nearby doors to residents evacuated from the housing complex as well as first responders, who stopped in during the day for snacks, food and a respite room.

Volunteers from the American Red Cross helped coordinate the evacuation center, which planned to operate as an overnight shelter as needed.

"We've had as many as 30 people here," said Rebecca Ciszek, regional Red Cross manager. "Some haven't come home from work yet."

Many of the residents taking advantage of the shelter were children, home from school during spring break. They were coloring, playing games and enjoying pizza and snacks Thursday afternoon.

"This is going to be a real party," said one girl, after learning that a business was sending over video games and movies.

Russ Cantu, Prescott's associate pastor, said opening the church was a natural response.

"We've done food drives and clothes closets for the people in the neighborhood," he said. "We have a team of men who go over (to the complex) to meet the needs of widows, kids, single parents. The estates are definitely back to where they were, with a triple homocide last month and now this. It's discouraging, but that's why we're here -- to meet the needs of our community at all times."

By 3 p.m., he said the church had already seen about 200 first responders rotating through for food and respite.

"They're coming in waves of 30-40 people."

He also said the effort was bolstered by donations of businesses in the community, such as Subway, Togo's, Little Cesar's, Walmart and TGIF Video.

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