BAKER, LA (WAFB) - The City of Baker might be small, but some national response teams are shining a big light on how it handled the flooding disaster.
The shelter at the Baker Community Center closed at noon on Friday. The gymnasium was nearly empty. American Red Cross volunteers were disassembling cots, packing donated items, and wrapping up some loose ends. It was home to 135 people in the past 30 days.
Merri Alessi, executive director of the Capital Area American Red Cross, got to know people who experienced the horror of being rescued and losing their homes.
"At first you have all these people coming in with a myriad of emotions and concerns and shock," Alessi said.
Alessi said the stories and life lessons learned there will not soon be forgotten. One of them, she said, is how well the City of Baker worked with volunteers to help make sure everyone who stayed there felt at home.
"Baker's done it right," Alessi said.
From the Red Cross volunteers to FEMA, to Catholic Charities and even strangers, Alessi said everyone worked together to help guide evacuees on the path to recovery.
"This community came together to support itself. They had cooking, people who came in, asked if supplies were needed. They just stood together," Alessi said.
At the head of that effort was newly-elected Mayor Darnell Waites. He came to know the evacuees as family.
"I've been talking to these people, been in their lives for the last 30 days," Waites said.
Waites said there was no real secret to what he did. He just opened his doors and the rest fell into place.
"Just people taking care of people leading people, serving people like you are supposed to," Waites said.
The shelter may be closed, but Waites said the recovery efforts are far from over. However, he has no doubt Baker will be back.
"We are ready. This is a resilient community. Baker is resilient, and they are going to move forward," Waites said.
Some of the people who moved out of the shelter checked into a hotel. Alessi said they will be placed in apartments as soon as rentals become available.