Sept. 15, 2004
By Betty Backstrom*
BATON ROUGE, La.
(UMNS) - As a steady stream of heavy traffic moved west and north along
Louisiana's interstate highways and major arteries, United Methodist
churches and institutions throughout Louisiana offered shelter to
evacuees from Hurricane Ivan.
|A UMNS photo courtesy of Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR
United Methodist volunteers unload a truck of food near Punta Gorda, Fla.
Louisiana Conference Center, located in the middle of the state in
Woodworth, received several hundred people Sept. 14-15 escaping the
wrath of the category 4 storm.
West Lodge is full, and the East Lodge is filling up. Once those spaces
are gone, our plan is to open up meeting rooms to serve as a general
shelter," said Annette McCreery, comptroller for the conference center.
The center is the headquarters of the denomination’s Louisiana Annual
have arrived from New Orleans, Covington, Slidell and Mandeville," she
said. "The drives have been hard and long for most. One phone message
left on our machine at 1 this morning indicated the travelers had just
spent 10 hours driving from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, a drive that
usually only takes an hour or an hour and a half."
United Methodist Church in Alexandria serves as an official Red Cross
shelter in times of emergency. The Rev. Thomas Dunbar, senior pastor,
said the church is rated as a shelter for 150 people and that a "full
house" is expected.
fellowship center, a gymnasium and all large meeting rooms will house
evacuees. Showers and a full kitchen will help provide necessary
comforts to those being sheltered.
|A UMNS file photo courtesy of Tom Hazelwood
Members of many Florida churches offered hurricane victims ice, water and hot meals.
hosted a Red Cross training earlier this year, where church members
were officially prepared to volunteer during hurricane season. There are
around 30 of us that are certified," Dunbar said.
woman at First Church has opened her charge account at a local grocery
with the instructions that the volunteers are to use it for anything and
everything needed to provide meals.
church has a history of compassionate outreach to those in need,"
Dunbar said. "We provided this service three years ago during Hurricane
Lilli, and will continue to help those looking for shelter in future
L. Schwab, president of Centenary College in Shreveport, announced that
students from Dillard University in New Orleans were being evacuated to
the campus in north Louisiana. Both schools are United Methodists
institutions of higher learning.
Sept. 14 statement from Schwab’s office said, "Due to the threat of
Hurricane Ivan, Dillard will shut down at noon today. Many of its
international students and others will board three leased buses and
travel to our campus, where they will be housed until it is safe to
bumper-to-bumper traffic on Interstate 10 stretched hundreds of miles
from New Orleans to Lake Charles, La. Special needs evacuees traveling
westward found aid from United Methodists in Lake Charles.
Rev. David DeWitt, a United Methodist chaplain for Memorial Hospital,
said local churches had stepped up to house the families of patients
that were being evacuated to Memorial from low-lying hospitals in the
New Orleans area.
United Methodist in Lake Charles has opened its fellowship hall and is
housing many of these families," he said. "Mattresses have been
transported to the church from one of our conference campgrounds, and
other area churches have provided bedding and linens for the shelter.
Having a place to stay close to their sick family member was critical,
since the closest hotel room available was almost to San Antonio,
Texas," DeWitt said.
United Methodist Church, another Lake Charles congregation, offered
parking areas and hookups for the recreational vehicles that many of the
families had used during the long evacuation.
Throughout the Louisiana Annual Conference, United Methodist congregations are checking on their members who are most in need.
Brasseaux, secretary for Asbury United Methodist Church in Lafayette,
said the congregation’s Nurture Team had been contacting close to 50
elderly and homebound members to check on their situation.
have around 15 team members who place the calls," Brasseaux said. "They
try to find out whether or not these folks need food, someone to go
over to pull in garbage cans, or just someone to reassure them that
things will be all right. We ask the team members to report back to the
church office so that we can be sure everyone’s needs have been met."
Hazelwood, director of emergency services for the United Methodist
Committee on Relief, said his agency is ready to respond in any area
along the Gulf Coast that suffers damage from Hurricane Ivan. "The whole
area is going to have flooding without a doubt," he added.
told United Methodist News Service that his focus, for now, is on the
area from Mobile, Ala., through the panhandle of Florida, which was
expected to bear the brunt of the hurricane.
"We’re sitting and watching, and we’ll be prepared to respond," he said. "We know that we’re in it for the long haul."
efforts are continuing in Florida for victims of Hurricanes Charley and
Frances, although Hazelwood said some of the work has been put on hold
while Ivan is being tracked. Ivan already has caused deaths and major
damage in Grenada, Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba.
United Methodist Committee on Relief is calling for volunteers,
financial contributions and donations of flood buckets to assist in its
hurricane relief work.
wanting to assist Florida residents can call a toll-free hotline, (800)
282-8011, Ext. 149. Details on assembling five-gallon flood buckets can
be found at http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor, the agency’s Web site. Click on the "UMCOR Kits" link.
for hurricane relief can be made to UMCOR Advance No. 982410,
"Hurricanes 2004," and dropped into church collection plates or mailed
directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York, NY 10115.
People donating by credit card can call (800) 554-8583.
is director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s
Louisiana Annual Conference. Linda Bloom, news writer with United
Methodist News Service, contributed to this report.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.