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Glorieta conference center becomes safe haven for hundreds of evacuees

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–More than 300 evacuees from a massive firestorm that continues to burn across portions of Los Alamos, N.M., have been relocated to Glorieta, a LifeWay Christian Resources conference center about 45 miles from the fires.

As of May 12, the conference center was housing 330 evacuees, mostly from the town of White Rock. “We may be receiving more depending on what the Red Cross decides to do,” said John Horton, associate director of Glorieta.

Glorieta can accommodate at least 1,500 people with meals and lodging, he said.

While this is the first time Glorieta has been called upon to assist in a major disaster, Horton said it’s business as usual at the conference center.

“We’ve told our management group to relax and do what we normally do … serve people,” he said. “And we’re going to help out as long as we’re needed.

“This is an opportunity to have a positive impact on our community,” Horton said.

The blaze has burned more than 20,000 acres of land and forced the evacuation of 20,000 people, including the entire town of Los Alamos.

Glorieta started receiving the first evacuees on Thursday, May 11, around 1 a.m. By 7 a.m. there were 70 evacuees and the number has continued to rise.

To accommodate their guests, Horton said additional staff members were called in to work as well as volunteers from the community.

“We are more than happy to be able to offer assistance to these families,” Horton said. “We house folks, we feed folks. That’s what we do.”

The evacuees are being fed and housed free of charge. In addition, Glorieta is hosting evening worship services with an emphasis on encouragement. “It’s a nondenominational service of spiritual encouragement. We wanted to give these families a chance to reach out and embrace Christianity,” Horton said.

In addition to the services, John Thurman, a Christian counselor from Hoffmanton Baptist Church, is organizing a team of grief counselors to help the displaced residents.

A local Christian radio station, KFLQ, is scheduled to broadcast from Glorieta on Friday, May 12, as part of the continuous media coverage of the fire.

Glorieta has also become a landlocked Noah’s Ark for animals displaced by the blaze. “Normally, we don’t allow pets at the conference center, but we’ve relaxed our rules to help folks cope,” Horton said. “And it seems as though most of the evacuees have at least two or three pets.”

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  • Todd Starnes