Marjorie Phillips, a mother of seven and social worker at Catholic Charities' Rose Haven ministry for women in downtown Portland, came home from work and couldn't take her eyes off the television set.

Image after image, story after story about rising waters, the film of oil, stranded families left after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast.

So she prayed, and God answered.

'I felt that the Lord was calling me to do something,' said Phillips.

So with the help of Catholic Charities, she did.

Phillips went to executive director Dennis Keenan, director of social services' Doug Alles and Good Shepherd Sister Cathy Boerboom, who put some calls in to Catholic Charities' offices near the Gulf Coast that could use volunteers, hoping to send Phillips to assist.

Phillips, a member of Immaculate Heart Parish in North Portland, had been to many training sessions put on by the Red Cross at Washington High School, two blocks from Catholic Charities offices on SE 12th Street.

After learning that the Red Cross was canceling the shelter, Phillips knew she had to go to the area to help.

After several phone calls to dozens of Catholic Charities directors around the country (140 total), Jim Kelly, the executive director of Catholic Charities in New Orleans said there were several options for cities in Texas that needed help.

'We were just brainstorming and talking with Marjorie and she mentioned that she had a sister who lived outside of San Antonio,' said Keenan. 'I hadn't heard much in the media about the city of San Antonio being involved.'

So the next morning a call was placed to the Catholic Charities offices in San Antonio.

It turned out that a lot of help was needed in San Antonio.

More than 18,000 evacuees had turned up there, looking for assistance and a second chance. The city at the time was hosting three large shelters, two similar to the size of Washington High School, and one housing more than 1,800.

Phillips went to meet her sister Mary Kay Lewis and see what they could do to help the situation.

In less than a week, Phillips had traveled to San Antonio, networked and brought 50 families back to Portland, establishing a new temporary program at Catholic Charities - the Hurricane Relief Program.

The stories and people Phillips encountered in San Antonio were hard to deal with. One man - who lost his father as a young man - lost his mother to Hurricane Katrina. Stranded families struggled to look for work and housing.

'All of these people were crying, angry, and frustrated,' said Ramata Adebawo, outreach specialist for the Hurricane Relief program. 'We've just tried to take them in as family.'

The program is housed in the basement of the Catholic Charities' offices on SE 12th Ave. The small staff helps evacuees find housing, jobs, and works to distribute furniture, household items, clothing and food.

Staff members have found housing for evacuees, starting with motels and moving to permanent or temporary housing. In searching for work for the evacuees, charities staff has worked with Portland Community College and its continuing education program to enroll folks in courses and target their skills for job placement, says Phillips. They have also helped evacuees deal with Federal Emergency Management Administration in receiving their assistance on time and have just generally been there to be a system of support for each evacuee.

Parishes have pitched in with donations. Holy Redeemer Parish in North Portland is hosting four students tuition-free. A student at St. Francis of Assisi School in Roy started up a fund-raiser to help evacuees with funds, and members of All Saints, St. Charles and St. Rose of Lima Parishes have helped out with donations of money, food, clothing and support. Immaculate Heart Parish in North Portland hosted a special welcoming reception.

Although the program will run officially only through Dec. 31, Keenan, Phillips and company hope to do a certain amount of follow up with evacuees and will consider an extension of the program at that time.

'The emotions underneath for some might not surface until later,' said Keenan. 'We want to make sure they're connected to mental health providers and that families and children have what they need for the long haul.'

Catholic Charities is still accepting donations of money, clothing, furniture and more. The organization is also looking for volunteers. Contact them at (503) 231-4866, or on their website at