MU graduate student starts group to help refugees relocate

Monday, September 5, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:57 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

Just a few days ago, Raina Cepel was focusing on her pursuit of a master’s degree in electrical engineering at MU.

Hurricane Katrina changed that. Cepel has started Mid-Missouri Homes for Katrina Victims after hearing about others using the Internet to help find housing for refugees. She’s already heard from about 45 people who want to pitch in.

“I know there are a lot of people who want to help,” Cepel said.

The offers have been diverse. There have been enough offers of housing to shelter about 40 people. About 10 volunteers have offered to drive to hurricane-stricken areas and bring people back. One nurse has promised free medical care to refugees when they arrive. Several have offered money for gas, clothing, food and other expenses, even though Cepel has no sponsorship or connection to an official relief organization.

Cepel said the biggest problem thus far is getting in touch with the people who need help. She has contacted the Salvation Army in Memphis, Tenn., to inquire about bringing refugees to Columbia.

Those who want to work with Cepel can contact her through her Web site,

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