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The following release is from from the Worldwide Faith News archives - UMNS# 04454

Louisiana's United Methodists offer shelter from storm

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Mon, 4 Oct 2004 17:30:39 -0500

Oct. 4, 2004 News media contact: Linda Bloom * (646) 3693759* New York {04454}

NOTE: Photographs are available at http://umns.umc.org .

By Betty Backstrom*

Hurricane Ivan

When millions of people were forced to evacuate coastal cities in the wake of
Hurricane Ivan, United Methodists in Louisiana were there to help.

About 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.

"We 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."

Evacuees 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 the

The 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."

The 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

"One woman told me that she couldn't believe a center like ours existed,"
Bushnell said. "She called us her 'refuge in the torm, a haven.'"

The 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.'"

In 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.

Centenary's 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.

"The 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."

In 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."

Although 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 facilities.

"This 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."

The 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.

UMCOR 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


United Methodist News Service

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