UMCOR Sager Brown -- a Community Resource
By Melissa Hinnen*
May 11, 2009—At the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager Brown campus in Baldwin, La., volunteers from across the US assemble relief supply kits to ship wherever they are needed in the world. According to executive Kathy Kraiza, "Kit ministry is an important way that volunteers make a difference in people's lives." She continues, "However, 28 percent of families in Baldwin live below the poverty line, and at Sager Brown we are also committed to caring for our neighbors in the parish."
Volunteers recently worked with Bobbie, a woman who lives in a nearby town. Surrounded by a supportive community of family and friends, Bobbie faces life's challenges with strength and grace. In 2004, she was diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Following surgery, intense radiation and chemotherapy, Bobbie still has health challenges but is confident the worst is behind her. At times, she experiences extreme swelling in her legs and needs to use a walker.
Her most recent challenge was losing her home. When her husband left, she struggled to afford the mortgage. Termites and mold made the house uninhabitable, and she was forced to leave. Her sister recently passed away and her niece and nephew moved to Ga. leaving the family home available to her. "It is like coming home," Bobbie says about moving back to the house where she was raised.
It was soon apparent that the house did not fully accommodate her health needs. The doorway to the bathroom was not accessible for the walker, creating situations where Bobbie had to call for medical assistance. Because the doorway is narrow, emergency personnel had difficulty helping her. Recognizing that she needed a wider doorway but not having the funds to pay for it, she contacted the UMCOR Sager Brown. "I never got help like that," she said. When she got the letter saying her application had been approved she cried, saying, "Thank the good Lord. God is just and good, and good all the time."
God at Work
Volunteers from UMCOR Sager Brown brought tools and material to widen the bathroom door and to replace the front door that had begun crumbling. "The needs at different homes vary," said a long term volunteer. "Sometimes we'll fix a leaky roof, other times we'll build a ramp and this week, we are widening a doorframe and replacing a front door."
Barbara Snell, who directs of outreach ministries at UMCOR Sager Brown says there are approximately 80 applications from people in the community who are requesting help with home repair. She expects that by the end of the year those needs will be met, and there will be another 80 applicants waiting. "We never know what skills and talents volunteers will bring from week to week, but God always provides the right volunteers."
Bobbie expresses a similar sentiment. She admits that she is often overwhelmed with some of her circumstances but her faith is strong and she sees the many ways that she is blessed by those around her. "Life has been hard for me, but I know that I am a child of God and he don't put no more on me than I can bear," she said. "When it look bad, he come through for me."
About UMCOR Sager Brown
UMCOR Sager Brown reaches out to the community of Baldwin and the world through its campus off of highway 90 in southern Louisiana.
The UMCOR Sager Brown Depot in Baldwin, La., is the headquarters for UMCORs relief supply operations. Locally, UMCOR Sager Brown reaches out to the Baldwin community through housing rehabilitation and food distribution, engaging volunteers in projects that help families and the elderly.
Congregations and individuals are urged to send completed kits, bulk materials or a contribution to purchase supplies. Gifts can be made to UMCOR Material Resources Advance # 901440.
*Hinnen is a staff writer for UMCOR