Oct. 4, 2004
By Betty Backstrom*
millions of people were forced to evacuate coastal cities in the wake
of Hurricane Ivan, United Methodists in Louisiana were there to help.
200 people seeking shelter wound up in Woodworth, La., at the
denomination’s Louisiana Conference Center. The center has two
residential lodges, a main facility with meeting rooms and dining
services, and a chapel.
had folks from all over," said the Rev. Richard Bushnell, the center’s
executive director. "They came from Mobile (Ala.), Pensacola (Fla.),
Gulf Shores (Ala.), New Orleans and cities in the New Orleans area."
whose homes were spared stayed for one night. Others stayed as along as
three days and nights, until they could return home safely and assess
phone rang continuously for several days, as the conference center
staff made room for hundreds of people who had no hotel reservations or
family to go to. "We never stopped trying to help people, even though
sometimes we had to send them to other shelters," he said. "But we made
sure that everyone found a place to stay."
center even wound up housing a number of soldiers who had been
displaced from Camp Beauregard, a National Guard base in Alexandria, La.
While taking in storm evacuees, the camp had to find other shelter for
some of its personnel.
woman told me that she couldn’t believe a center like ours existed,"
Bushnell said. "She called us her ‘refuge in the storm, a haven.’"
woman told him she felt like she had been on vacation "‘instead of
running away from Hurricane Ivan. I think winding up here was God’s way
of telling me that things will be OK.’"
Shreveport, La., Centenary College welcomed 33 students, staff, and
faculty from Dillard University in New Orleans to wait out Hurricane
Ivan. Both Dillard and Centenary are United Methodist colleges.
fitness center became a shelter with mattresses, couches and
televisions. "The outpouring of kindness from the Centenary community
and some local businesses was overwhelming," said Lori Bradshaw, dean of
student life at the college. "Faculty, staff and students donated
items, as well as time and energy, for these evacuees.
generosity was well received by the Dillard students," she added. "They
were delighted to be able to attend classes while away from their own
campus. It was heartwarming to see both institutions work together to
make the situation bearable for those students evacuated."
Woodworth, the conference center staff also made visitors comfortable.
Bushnell cautioned staffers that the travelers would be arriving in
anxious moods. "They were all exhausted, some traveling for 10 hours or
more," he said. "They didn’t know what would be waiting for them when
they got back home. I just reminded the staff to use a healthy measure
of patience and to go that extra mile to meet our guests’ needs."
a number of the rooms had been booked by the Louisiana Conference’s
Academy for Spiritual Leadership for the days the hurricane hit, the
group was gracious about canceling its event so evacuees could use the
was a wonderful, uplifting experience for the staff. It provided an
opportunity to extend our ministry to people we may probably never see
again," Bushnell said. "It became a time of spiritual revival and
renewal for each of us that worked here."
United Methodist Committee on Relief is responding to storm-related
needs along the Gulf Coast and elsewhere. Donations can be made in
several ways to UMCOR’s appeal, "Hurricanes 2004," Advance #982410.
Online, donors can go to www.MethodistRelief.org. Checks written to
UMCOR can be placed in church offering plates or mailed directly to
UMCOR, 475 Riverside Drive, Room 330, New York, N.Y. 10115. Donations by
credit card can be made by calling, toll free, (800) 554-8583.
continues to need flood buckets containing supplies that volunteers use
in post-hurricane cleanup. For details, go to
http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/print/kits/. Completed flood buckets-with
$1.50 per bucket to cover reshipping-should be sent to UMCOR Sager
Brown, 101 Sager Brown Road, Baldwin, La. 70514.
*Backstrom is director of communications for the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.