|UMCOR helps La. communities respond to needs of displaced|
March 2, 2006
|Photo courtesy of Louisiana Annual Conference
Schoolchildren displaced from New Orleans are attending Mayfair Elementary School in Baton Rouge, La.
By Betty Backstrom*
BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS) — Funding through the United Methodist
Committee on Relief is helping meet the needs of schoolchildren
displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina.
Of the more than 600,000 people who evacuated New Orleans when
Katrina struck Aug. 29, about half settled either permanently or
temporarily in other Louisiana communities. UMCOR has offered grant
funding to the seven districts of the United Methodist Louisiana Annual
(regional) Conference for programs that support humanitarian aid to the
thousands of displaced people. Each grant could include requests for up
“The Baton Rouge District has developed a program focusing on the
needs of young children,” said the Rev. Jan Holloway, associate pastor
of First United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge and chairperson of the
Baton Rouge District Task Force on Hurricane Response.
“Due to Katrina, many children and youth have lost their homes and
everything in them; their schools have been destroyed; and their friends
have been dispersed,” Holloway said. “These children need security,
stability, places to learn and play, and counseling programs so that
they can rebuild their lives.”
The Baton Rouge District received a full $50,000 grant for a program
targeting two schools — Mayfair Elementary and Scotlandville Middle —
that were opened specifically for 480 children displaced by Katrina.
Many of the 43 teachers at the two schools were also displaced by the
|A UMNS file photo by Kathy Gilbert
pile of trash in New Orleans represents the destructive fury of
Hurricane Katrina. Many displaced residents found their way to Baton
“It was a joy to deliver on behalf of UMCOR and the churches of the
Baton Rouge district a check to Mayfair Elementary for the purchase of
science education supplies. I can still remember the first time I looked
through a microscope and the wonder I felt; it gave me an appreciation
for God’s creative power that I did not have before,” Holloway said.
Most of the children were students in New Orleans public schools
that, by most measures of accountability, were failing at the task of
providing an adequate education. “With hard work on everyone’s part,
these young people will have expanded educational opportunities provided
through their new schools,” she added.
United Methodists throughout the city have also responded with gifts
of uniforms, school books, library books, supplies and teacher
resources. First Church in Baton Rouge provided supplies and uniforms
received from nearly 50 United Methodist congregations throughout the
“A local United Methodist businessman got his company to sponsor an
art contest at Mayfair Elementary, using the winner’s entry on his
firm’s Christmas card. A retired teacher donated all of her Scholastic
Books points from nearly 30 years of teaching, resulting in the
provision of over 3,000 books for the schools,” said the Rev. Larry
Miller, Baton Rouge District superintendent.
The second element of the UMCOR grant is the purchase of needed
kitchen equipment for United Methodist HOPE Ministries in Baton Rouge.
“This mission center, which provides food to those in need, has been
serving about 1,100 families per month since Hurricane Katrina hit. This
is an increase of close to 275 families per month,” Holloway said.
‘Be the Hope’
Helping children who are living in an area trailer village is the
third focus of the grant program. The village is operated by the Federal
Emergency Management Agency.
“The majority of the funding will help establish a computer lab for
young students residing in the Groom Road trailer village,” Holloway
said. “Over 500 children and youth are living at the site, with
essentially no access to computers or an environment conducive to study.
With matching funds from the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, we hope to
have a state-of-the-art program that will help these at-risk children
stay ahead educationally.
“The focus on children and youth and the ministries we are
implementing underscores the mission of UMCOR and the United Methodist
Church as we encourage churches to ‘Be the Hope,’” she said. “These
educational and nutritional efforts will help children holistically for
their entire lives.”
*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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