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UMCOR Bright Spots

August 02, 2007

Red Arrow-gift "This is Lauren's Home"
Red Arrow-giftLake Charles Gets "A Shot in the Arm" From Volunteer Groups 
Red Arrow-giftThis Week's Quote
Red Arrow-giftRecovery Stats 
Red Arrow-giftJacob Works in Lake Charles… (Slide Show)


By Susan J. Meister, Gulf Coast Communications

When the news of the advancing hurricane reached Miss Maria and her family in Biloxi, Miss., there was no question about evacuation. "We had to leave," Miss Maria said. "Because of Lauren."

 Miss Maria has many fond memories of her late daughter, Lauren.

Miss Maria has many fond memories of her late daughter, Lauren.
Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Nineteen-year-old Lauren, who had used a wheel chair since suffering a brain tumor at age 12, needed air conditioning and a reliable water source. The risks of staying in their home near the Gulf and the loss of basic services were too high.

And even though Lauren died in May 2006, before her home was rebuilt by volunteers from Parkway Heights UMC in Hattiesburg, Miss., her mother says, "This is Lauren's home."

After their month-long stay in Philadelphia, Miss Maria and her family moved back to Biloxi to stay with a cousin. "My sister had emailed me pictures of our home," she said. "We were overwhelmed." Her cousin, who had water damage a little over a foot up her walls, put in new sheet rock and built a wheel chair ramp to accommodate Lauren.

Church takes on "extreme makeover"

 Lauren would spend hours coloring pictures for her friends.

Lauren would spend hours coloring pictures for her friends.
Susan Meister/UMCOR

In the spring of 2006, with the help of Marianne Gregg, case manager at the Seashore Assembly Station of the Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Response, the "incredible five - Phil, Fred, Tony, Ron and Herbert" began the rebuild. The church chronicles their own version of "extreme makeover," with albums of photos, on their web site. The Seashore Station helped with sheetrock, insulation and other materials.

As Miss Maria gives a tour of her new home, she exclaims about features in every room. In the kitchen, she exclaimed, "I didn't even have to go out and buy a garlic press!" The youth groups from Parkway Heights helped with the rooms for her two younger daughters, Madison, 10, and Kelsey, 9. At Christmas church members brought a tree with gifts and food for a celebration. The family moved in for good about two months later.

"I am so grateful, but my heart goes out to people," Miss Maria cried. "We miss Lauren so much, but this house is so incredible, a labor of love. Lauren would be so proud of her new home."

To help families in Biloxi, Miss., and other places along the Gulf Coast rebuild from the wind and water of Hurricane Katrina, contact the Mississippi United Methodist Katrina Response.

For more on the United Methodist recovery work visit these web sites:
UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief)
UM News Service
Mississippi Conference
Louisiana Conference
Texas Conference
Alabama-West Florida Conference