|Baton Rouge church houses Red Cross volunteers|
Jennifer Briggs and Meredith Carlson prepare food
for American Red Cross volunteers staying at Broadmoor United Methodist
Church in Baton Rouge, La.
UMNS photos by Mike DuBose.
By Betty Backstrom and Kathy L. Gilbert*
Sept. 3, 2008 | BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS)
Experienced Red Cross volunteers from all over the United States know
that the "Broadmoor Hilton" is the place to stay in southern Louisiana.
Broadmoor United Methodist Church earned the nickname because of its
Christian hospitality after housing disaster relief workers for the
American Red Cross following Hurricane Katrina three years ago.
The Baton Rouge church is located in one of the many areas damaged by
Hurricane Gustav. The Category 2 hurricane ripped through the city with
gusts of up to 91 miles per hour on Labor Day.
The church starting preparing for the volunteers four days before the
storm hit and more than 170 cots lined the gym. Like most of the rest
of the city, Broadmoor was without power on the day after the hurricane,
but church and Red Cross volunteers managed to keep the kitchen
operating to feed volunteers, thanks to gas stoves and generators.
Mary Grace Simpson, hospitality chairperson for the shelter, said
members of Broadmoor are always eager to support Red Cross volunteers.
Mary Grace Simpson
"One Sunday morning after Katrina, they announced from the pulpit
that volunteers were needed to wash towels that had been used by the Red
Cross workers," said Simpson. After the service, members lined up to
receive bags filled with dirty towels to wash, dry and return to the
The church has a long-standing history of hospitality during
emergencies and times of need, according to Michael Cockrell, the
church’s business administrator. It is the full-time home of an
ecumenical assistance and food program called Southeast Ministries.
"After Katrina, we were able to help a lot of families that relocated
from New Orleans. The church has regular food drives that keep our
pantries stocked," Cockrell said.
Cockrell is certain the ministry will reach out to those affected by
Hurricane Gustav, too. "We’ve gotten pretty good at hosting dinners for
hundreds who are looking for a hot meal at Thanksgiving," he said.
Red Cross volunteer Brian Flynn from Columbus, Ohio, calls the people of
Broadmoor United Methodist Church the "most hospitable host group that
he has ever worked with" in his role as shelter coordinator.
"When they landed at the Baton Rouge airport, the experienced
volunteers all wanted to come to the Broadmoor Hilton," Simpson said
with a laugh.
The church's second-mile hospitality is not only helpful and
practical, it is spiritually meaningful to the volunteers, according to
Simpson, who remembers what one volunteer wrote on a paper banner that
hung in the church following Katrina.
"He wrote, 'Church members taking our clothes home to wash reminded
me of Jesus washing the disciples' feet,'" Simpson recalled. "It makes
me cry every time I think about that."
*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference. Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Housing Hurricane Evacuees
Tennessee church opens doors to Gustav evacuees
United Methodists to assess hurricane’s impact
Katrina’s lessons helped Louisiana: church leader
Broadmoor United Methodist Church
American Red Cross
Louisiana Annual Conference
UMCOR Hurricanes 2008
CNN: Gustav in depth