“We’ve Seen a Lot of Ministry”: Volunteers Reflect on UMCOR Sager Brown
By Susan J. Meister
BALDWIN, La., May 16, 2007—Dave and Joan Elton joined a mission trip to southern Louisiana from Christ UMC, Maplewood, Minn., in January 1993, just after Hurricane Andrew had devastated the Gulf Coast. It was the first of many trips they would make over the next 13 years. During their long service as volunteers they've seen a lot of ministry radiating from the campus now known as UMCOR Sager Brown.
The Eltons are among thousands of volunteers from around the United Methodist connection who have traveled to Baldwin since 1992 to help rebuild and refurbish homes; revitalize and maintain the campus; and receive, verify, pack and ship relief kits for shipment around the world. Many volunteers, like the Eltons, have come frequently, some every year.
"We've seen a lot of changes," Joan noted. The first several years focused on rehabilitating homes and community involvement, including a community garden and a variety of classes held on campus. The depot was built in 1996, and UMCOR Sager Brown began the ministry of receiving and shipping relief supply kits.
"I remember the first year the depot opened," Dave added. "I am so glad UMCOR called it a depot - UMCOR wanted things to come and go quickly, not store them for a long time in a warehouse."
Community service a priority
While in Baldwin, Dave likes to spend most of his time on community projects. Often he and Joan make return visits to people they have helped in the past years to reconnect with them, including Clarence Watson.
"The single most significant project I have ever been involved in was the house we built for Clarence Watson, a young man who was a paraplegic," Dave explained. "We built parts of the house on the campus under the canopy by the gym, and then moved and reassembled them on the lot in Morgan City. Many groups were involved in a wonderful project that came together to build something useful for him."
In 2006, ninety-three community housing projects were completed by volunteers at UMCOR Sager Brown, under the direction of Ronald Johnson, Facilities and Project Manager.
Volunteers make a difference
Joan spends most of her time receiving, verifying and packing the relief kits that line the shelves of the depot, including health kits, flood buckets and school kits. "We really like seeing people from year to year," she said. "Other volunteers, staff, and the people we've done projects for. Our time at UMCOR Sager Brown gives you a feeling that an individual really can make a difference."
For more information about a volunteer experience or to collect and send relief supplies, go to the new UMCOR Sager Brown home page. You can download a greeting card for the staff to send with your shipment. If you have been a volunteer at USB, you can add your comments at the 140th anniversary page.