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Storm relief stations established throughout Louisiana

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A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom

The Uptown Storm Recovery Station is within walking distance for many storm survivors in New Orleans.
Nov. 21, 2005

By Betty Backstrom*

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS)— First Street United Methodist Church, located in the central part of New Orleans, is one of six storm relief/recovery stations being established in areas of Louisiana affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief is working with the Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference in setting up the stations, carefully chosen to offer close proximity to storm victims in hard hit areas.

“First Street United Methodist Church offers a prime location for one of these stations,” said the Rev. Lance Eden, pastor. “Although our facilities were blessed to virtually be spared from the devastation, the area surrounding the church for miles was severely impacted.”

Each storm relief/recovery station is staffed by a director, a construction director, a case management director and a part-time administrative assistant.

“The director works with volunteer teams coming in the area to provide relief and recovery assistance. We are still in the relief phase for most areas,” said Jim Bailey, director of the Slidell United Methodist Storm Relief/Recovery Station at Aldersgate United Methodist Church.

As recovery and rebuilding begin, a construction director will oversee efforts to ensure that all work is completed properly and efficiently. The case management director will assist a team of case managers, serving as volunteers, who will work with storm victims to determine their specific needs and develop a recovery program to meet those needs.

“Perhaps an individual needs help with debris removal. Another may need help with construction because their insurance coverage and help from FEMA does not quite cover all their costs. Maybe someone needs a new refrigerator, but with all the financial losses suffered, they simply can’t afford to buy one. Once the case manager determines those needs, then the wheels are put in motion to find solutions,” said the Rev. Darryl Tate, director of the Baton Rouge based Louisiana United Methodist Storm Recovery Center, which oversees the operations of all of the relief/recovery stations. Tate, pastor of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in New Orleans, is one of dozens of clergy displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Betty Backstrom

Hurricane Katrina survivors Lillian Daniels, left, and Laura Bell, center, work with Cheryl Young at their church’s storm relief station.
Meeting the needs of each client will ultimately be addressed in concert with other relief agencies like the Red Cross and Catholic Charities.

“Unmet Needs Committees will be established in most areas to provide an arena for a cooperative effort. This approach will help to avoid duplication of efforts in working with storm survivors,” said Tate.

On a recent trip to the Uptown United Methodist Storm/Recovery Station at First Street United Methodist Church, office staff for the Louisiana Conference bagged groceries and personal supplies for storm victims through the distribution center operating in the church’s fellowship hall.

“Although most stations will not have a supply distribution component, the Uptown Station will continue to disperse food and other donated items because a number of the storm victims within walking distance of the church were impoverished before the storm hit,” said Tate.

Two members of First Street United Methodist Church worked alongside the conference staff, greeting storm victims seeking help. Laura Bell and her mother Lillian Daniels, members of the church for more than 50 years, lost homes in New Orleans East and the Gentilly area, respectively.

“Our entire family evacuated to Galveston, Texas, when Hurricane Katrina was heading our way. Fifteen of us were housed in a three-bedroom beach house on the island. It was crowded, but we felt blessed to have shelter,” said Bell.

Like so many in the diaspora from New Orleans, Bell’s family found themselves running from a second storm when only four weeks later Hurricane Rita barreled toward the Texas-Louisiana border.

Now back in Louisiana, a number of the family are living with Bell’s son in his New Orleans Westbank home, which was basically untouched by the hurricane. Both Bell and Daniels have been fortunate enough to find construction crews that are working on the restoration of their respective homes.

The smiles and helping spirits of these United Methodist women were inspiring to everyone volunteering that day. When asked what was fueling their positive outlook, Lillian Daniels said, “Well, we still have these bodies. We lost things, but no one in our family was harmed.”

“We’ll be volunteering at the church on a regular basis, offering encouragement to those in need. After all, we understand quite well what they are going through,” said Bell.

*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or

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