UMCOR Sager Brown Reopens After Hurricane Gustav
By Susan J. Meister*
September 5, 2008—"When we returned [to UMCOR Sager Brown], it was very emotional to see that everything was okay," said long-term volunteer Judi Siler. Siler was one of the last six persons to help secure and evacuate the Baldwin, La., campus ahead of the landfall of Hurricane Gustav over the Labor Day weekend.
Bill Dudleson, director of volunteer services, confirmed Siler's assessment. "The campus looks like it's been through a bad thunderstorm with high winds," he said. "There is damage to a gutter or two, some limbs are down—but there is no water damage.
"I don't know what we would have done to prepare without our four long-term volunteers," Dudleson continued. Working with volunteers from Missouri and Virginia already on campus, Judi and Marvin Siler and Joan and Howard McGlauflin prepared both the inside and outside of all the buildings for the anticipated severe weather.
The UMCOR Sager Brown Depot is the headquarters for the United Methodist Committee on Relief's (UMCOR) relief supply operations. Approximately $4 million in supplies are shipped each year from the Baldwin, La. campus. Some 2,000 volunteers that come through Sager Brown each year make these shipments happen.
Volunteers Pitch in to Secure Campus
"When our volunteers come to Sager Brown, I give the Sunday orientation," Siler said. "I say 'God put you here for a reason' and 'You'll often be called on to do something unexpected.' So midweek, when we asked them to cover equipment with plastic, they really did a good job and did it so quickly!
"Their attitude was wonderful," she continued. "They knew they had done something worthwhile."
Waiting for News
All the staff was released from the campus on Friday, August 29. The next day, Bill and Dianna Dudleson, the Silers, and the McGlauflins heeded the mandatory evacuation from Baldwin at 9:00 am. They weathered the storm at the Wesley Center in Alexandria, La.
"The waiting began," Judi Siler said. "We did a Bible study on waiting. We thought about waiting for God's answer and wondered what we would see, what we would have to do when we returned."
The group returned to Baldwin on Wednesday morning, September 3. Power was restored by 2:30 pm that afternoon. Dudleson reported that "everything came on okay." Louisiana Area Bishop William Hutchinson, UMCOR executive Tom Hazelwood, and other UMCOR staff visited on Thursday, September 4, to get a personal look at the status of the campus.
Sager Brown Resumes Volunteer Program September 8
Dudleson reported that teams scheduled for the week of September 1 were contacted by the Wednesday prior to cancel. However, given the current status of the campus, all teams for the week of September 8 are welcome. "We called them all today!" Dudleson said.
Relief Supply Work to Continue
"We are relieved that the campus was minimally affected," said Tom Hazelwood UMCOR's domestic disaster response executive, "and now we need to continue our relief supply work and outreach to affected communities in Louisiana." Dudleson confirmed that UMCOR Sager Brown has offered to house up to 20 Volunteers in Mission (VIMs) who would work in the area, including Morgan City, about thirty miles southeast of Baldwin. Morgan City is one of the towns in Louisiana that sustained significant damage from the hurricane.
How You Can Help
Congregations and individuals are urged to send kits or items for kits to UMCOR Sager Brown so that the material ministry can continue to deliver supplies at a moment's notice. There is a current shortage of flood buckets, school kits and layette kits. Learn more about sending kits on UMCOR's Relief Supplies webpage. Interested persons can find additional information on volunteering on the UMCOR website as well
Please help UMCOR continue to respond to people affected by Hurricane Gustav and anticipated subsequent storms. Your gift to UMCOR Advance #3019695, Hurricanes 2008, helps us provide immediate on-the-ground support to volunteers, annual conferences and interfaith response efforts.
Contact your jurisdictional volunteer in mission coordinator for information about volunteering in the area.
*Meister is Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR.