|West Tennessee United Methodists offer compassion to evacuees|
Sept. 1, 2005
|Web-only photo by Jo Ellen Druelinger
Jonathan Coleman delivers supplies to the SOS (Service Over Self) center in Memphis.
By Cathy Farmer*
JACKSON, Tenn. (UMNS) — From securing post-surgical medical treatment to
housing, feeding and clothing the 35 members of one refugee family,
United Methodists throughout the Memphis Annual (regional) Conference
are opening their hearts and doors to the distraught victims of
In Brownsville, more than 115 men, women and children are staying in
local motels. Most have no more than the clothes they grabbed as they
fled their homes, a few treasured photos, home videos and their wedding
Monique Florane is one of those survivors. The Slidell, La. native
traveled in a crowded car with her four children and extended family for
a 14-hour trip to Tennessee, even as she was recuperating from surgery.
“I wasn’t supposed to get out of bed,” said Florane, pale and shaken,
cradling the drainage tubes issuing from her stomach. “I was so grateful
when United Methodists took me to the doctor to see about getting these
tubes removed.” The doctor advised waiting 24 hours.
Florane says she’s lucky. She knows that her husband is sill alive, even
though she doesn’t know his exact location. He is an offshore boat
captain, so he still has a job.
Sammy Tillman, minister of worship at First United Methodist Church in
Brownsville, says the church will help Florane and her family to reach
Houston where they plan to stay with relatives. “We’re providing them
with gas money, clothes, and paying for their stay here at the motel
until they can leave,” Tillman said.
On Wednesday night, all of the evacuees were bused to Union Grove United
Methodist Church for supper. Then, while the parents met with Red Cross
representatives, the children were taken to Brownsville First to watch
|Web-only photo by Jo Ellen Druelinger
Refugees from Hurricane Katrina receive tickets for free dinners at the SOS (Service Over Self) center in Memphis, Tn.
“The parents asked us to take the kids somewhere else,” Tillman said.
“They’ve been brave for the children up to now, but they really needed
time alone to cry.”
The Haywood County community is rallying around the evacuees. Volunteers
have stocked the West Tennessee Delta Heritage Center, located across
the street from the motels, with food, toys, games and snacks.
Cathe Butler, executive director of the center, said the evacuees have
been able to get whatever they need. “It’s a joy giving to these
people,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy and as sad at
Butler said she and the Rev. Cecil Bellew, the Brownsville district
superintendent, worked all day Tuesday trying to find free places for
the evacuees to live. Among those is the SOS (Service Over Self) Center
More than 100 evacuees found shelter at SOS, a ministry of Christ United
Methodist Church to house teams that come to Memphis to help rebuild
Members of Christ Church provided linens and planned to “adopt" SOS for a
night to feed the families and to stay overnight in the building as
hosts. “I’m helping deliver all that our church members are bringing,”
Sue Fouse, a Christ Church volunteer, said. “I wanted to do, and God has
provided a way.”
Christ Church welcomed 63 hurricane evacuees to its Wednesday night
supper after members extended invitations for a free meal and delivered
the flyers to area hotels.
|Web-only photo by Cathy Farmer
Moses helps members of the Cole family check clothing sizes.
Thirty-five members of the family fled to Jackson, Tenn., after
Hurricane Katrina destroyed their homes in Louisiana.
Other United Methodist churches have stepped forward to house evacuees.
Germantown United Methodist Church will open its doors to approximately
20 people from the Gulf Coast. Other churches in the Memphis area
offering shelter include Bartlett, Millington and Scenic Hills United
Methodist churches. Highland Heights United Methodist Church is housing
families of patients admitted to Baptist Hospital. Several other
churches are providing food for evacuees.
The Rev. Rick Kirchoff, Germantown senior pastor, said the church also
sent word to hotels nearby that they are housing evacuees. “We’re
planning recreation opportunities and pot luck meals for families cooped
up in hotels. We’re also setting up to help folks who are in transit
with gas and coupons for meals.”
The church will also support members who have opened their homes to
relatives and friends. “This is going to be a long haul crisis. We are
just beginning!,” Kirchoff said.
The Wesley Housing Corporation may also offer long tem shelter.
According to Selena Henson, president of the Wesley Senior Ministries
Foundation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development contacted
Ron Budynas, Wesley’s director of housing, wanting to know how many
vacant apartments were available.
“They were checking for the displaced folks from Section 8 Housing in
New Orleans,” Henson said. “Ron told them we have apartments available,
and we would be willing to help. At this point, we are just waiting to
“If they come,” she continued, “most will come with only the clothes on
their backs. We will need help with food, clothes, medicine and basic
furniture.” The apartments are unfurnished.
Inez Cole left Seminole Parish, La., in a caravan of nine cars with 35
family members. She hopes to find somewhere for her family to live until
they can go home. They know it won’t be soon. An uncle who lives in
Monroe, La., boated over to their neighborhood to assess the damage. “He
said our houses were completely underwater and that bodies were
floating all around,” she said.
|Web-only photo by Cathy Farmer
Cole and 34 members of her family are being aided by Memphis churches,
after they fled Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina.
Cole and her family are fast running out of money. Many of them are ill:
four are diabetics, one has seizures, and another has emphysema.
“We only have two more nights paid for at the motel here in Jackson,” she explained.
Local churches are working ecumenically to help the Cole family. Daphne
Moses, Volunteers in Mission coordinator for the Memphis conference,
noted clothing sizes and asked members of Northside United Methodist
Church to gather what was needed. Baptists agreed to fill prescriptions.
Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church offered to fix lunch at the church for the family on Saturday.
“At least they’ll have somewhere to go on Labor Day weekend,” said the
Rev. Roger Hopson, director of program ministries for the Memphis
Going to God in prayer
The United Methodist Church is helping find solutions for thousands of
evacuees fleeing the devastated Gulf Coast. Prayer services are being
held in churches across the nation. Prayer means a lot to the survivors
of the hurricane. The first thing Monique Florane requested was prayer.
*Cathy Farmer is director of communications for the Memphis Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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