United Methodist Volunteers in Mission To Be Housed at St. Mark’s Community Center
by Mary Beth Coudal
United Methodist Volunteers in Mission are renovating the St. Mark’s Community Center in the French Quarter of New Orleans, Louisiana. Soon the center will house dozens of volunteers who are helping to rebuild the Gulf Coast this summer.
Although the eye of Hurricane Katrina bypassed St. Mark’s Community Center one year ago; neighboring homes and lives were pummeled by the storm.
Over the last several months, four teams from the California-Nevada Annual Conference have led the renovating work at St. Mark’s Community Center. One of those teams joined forces with another volunteer team from the South Africa Methodist Church.
“How often do we see other countries coming to help us?” asked Amanda Brummer Choi, executive with Global Ministries who recently visited St. Mark’s.
“The teams that have visited here have touched St. Mark’s Community Center profoundly with their energy, kindnesses, and faith,” said Peg Culligan, vice president of the board of directors, St. Mark’s.
“St. Mark’s has often been called an anchor in the community for kids who might move from person to person within their families… James Ross the executive director shared a story of one of the girls who was taught to swim at St. Mark’s. She was able to swim to save her grandma (during the storm),” reported Ms. Brummer Choi.
Brummer Choi told of another displaced girl who had evacuated to Virginia after the storm. The girl telephoned James Rogers, the program director of the Awesome Girls Mentoring Program at St. Mark’s. The girl called to say, ‘I just needed to hear your voice.’
That mentoring program is one example of programs that have begun again since the storm. The community center will continue programs to reach out to the community, in addition to housing volunteers. The Awesome Girls Mentoring Project recently received two grants, one of which was for $70,000 from the Institute of Mental Hygiene to reignite the mentoring program.
As community members return to the neighborhood, they are greeted by scores of volunteers at work.
Since the storm, according to the Louisiana United Methodist Recovery Ministry, a million hours of volunteer work in the Gulf Coast have been logged by more than 11,000 volunteers.
The Louisiana United Methodist Recovery Ministry has helped coordinate the arriving teams. The United Methodist Committee on Relief has provided funding for the rebuilding efforts.
According to Brummer Choi, St. Mark’s renovation is a true example of the connectional work of the church with the collaboration of so many volunteers, boards, and agencies, such as the Louisiana Conference, the California-Nevada Conference, Global Ministries (UMCOR, the Women’s Division, and the Community and Institutions Ministries), the staff, and the board of St. Mark’s. It is the only United Methodist Church in the Vieux Carre (French Quarter).
There is still much work to do. “It’s heart-wrenching to leave the people there. It’s like it happened yesterday. You see a lot of devastation and deserted houses and areas that are still in bad shape. There are a few houses here and there that are being fixed up. It’s still front page news in New Orleans. Everyday, all but one of the cover stories in the newspaper are about the recovery efforts.”
The story of St. Mark’s, built in 1923, an historic United Methodist church and community center owned by the Women’s Division of the Global Ministries, is one of those many newsworthy stories.
Date posted: Jul 07, 2006