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UMCOR Bright Spots

August 16, 2007

Red Arrow-giftVolunteers Forge Poignant Connections with New Orleans
Red Arrow-giftPearlington Homeowner Anxious for Home to Be Rebuilt
Red Arrow-giftThis Week's Quote
Red Arrow-giftRecovery Stats
Red Arrow-giftStill Blue Tarps…(Slide Show)


By Susan J. Meister, Gulf Coast Communications

The connections between families in Louisiana and other parts of the country are often poignant. Westbank Operations Coordinator Jake McGlothin especially remembers two Virginia Tech students who dedicated their Thanksgiving holidays to help in early cleanup efforts, Ryan Clark in 2005 and Leslie Sherman in 2006.

Miss Montreal (right) is quite fond of her Westbank case manager Abby McMurry.

Miss Montreal (right) is quite fond of her Westbank case manager Abby McMurry.
Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Both Ryan and Leslie were among the 33 students and professors killed at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007. The Disaster Recovery Ministry of the Louisiana Conference has initiated the Virginia Tech Memorial Project. A home will be dedicated in Ryan and Leslie’s memory over Thanksgiving break in 2007 when another Virginia Tech team will be in the New Orleans area.

The home to be dedicated is in the Pontchartrain Park in the Gentilly District of Orleans Parish. It was one of the first areas in New Orleans designed to provide home ownership to middle and upper income African Americans. The flood waters of Hurricane Katrina inundated the entire neighborhood. The homeowner, Miss Montreal, says simply, “It was a wonderful place for our kids to grow up.”

In August 2005, most of the residents were elderly, their children scattered to other communities. But many youth were back during the summer of 2007 as part of volunteer mission teams. Miss Montreal just couldn’t believe the energy of the youth from Central Texas who were helping. “My goodness, they’re full of vim and vigor,” she said.

 Miss Montreal dons her New Orleans Saints cap to go to her morning doctor’s appointment.

Miss Montreal dons her New Orleans Saints cap to go to her morning doctor’s appointment.
Susan Meister/UMCOR

Miss Montreal is full of “vim and vigor” herself. A Peace Corps volunteer to Jamaica in her 60s, the 81-year old retired nurse worked from her son’s home in California after the storm to get a FEMA trailer and begin rebuilding her home. She found a list of groups doing gutting in early 2006 and called the folks at First UMC, Algiers, which came to host the Westbank Station. Miss Montreal thought that since they were a Christian group, “they would have respect for my property.”

Even with all her phone calls, it took until June of 2006 to get her FEMA trailer in order. McGlothin and case manager Abby McMurry have been helping with the details of her home’s rebuilding, with the blessing of Miss Montreal’s son Andre. Miss Montreal is so grateful. “God’s been with me all the way,” she said.

“We’ve had ‘holy moments’ here,” McGlothin added. “Like when I told Miss Montreal we got a grant – we were excited!”

A plaque will be placed in a garden at Miss Montreal’s home to honor the Virginia Tech students. More information on the memorial project can be found in the August 10 issue of LA Now! the conference newspaper. To volunteer or learn more about the disaster recovery stations, contact the Louisiana United Methodist Disaster Recovery Ministry.

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