Volunteers In Mission at UMCOR Sager-Brown

By Joan McGlauflin
October 2000

Joan and Howard McGlauflin at Communion service overlooking Bayou Teche in Sager-Brown

We arrived on a Saturday at the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Sager-Brown Depot in Baldwin, Louisiana, not knowing what to expect or what we would be doing as Volunteers in Mission. Sager-Brown is a 28-acre campus of about 11 buildings. The Women's Division of The United Methodist Church wholly owns the campus. The 42,000 sq. ft. Depot is owned by UMCOR on land leased from the Women's Division.

We were assigned to a very nice one-bedroom efficiency apartment in Peck Hall. There are eight apartments in the building, two of them two-bedroom ones. There is also a dormitory for about 60 people. I was able to cook our meals but since there were other teams there, the cafeteria was open, with three meals daily costing about $10.00 a day. They also have hook-ups for 12 RV's.

We were greeted by Roger and Beverly, who are long-term volunteers. Beverly runs the gift shop and is the host of Peck Hall. Roger is the assistant director of grounds and facilities. We settled in, unpacked and went down to the TV sitting area to get to know our hosts. On Sunday they asked us to go to church with them in the next town over from Baldwin and out to dinner.

Howard with a group of college kids from St. Luke's UMC of Maryville, Illinois, after finishing to paint a house in the community where Sager- Brown is located

On Monday we were asked to join the staff at their daily devotions, which were held every morning just before the start of the work day. At 8:30 a.m., we met with Mickey, who is the Volunteer Coordinator. We were given a tour of the campus and also of the Depot, where we met Barbara & Soc, the long term volunteers who supervise the Depot.

We were then given our work assignments for the week. Howard was asked to help with some of the many odd jobs that needed to be done on campus. One of the biggest things he did was to get the satellite, which had been donated to the campus, working. Since they were building an addition to the dormitory, there was lots of work to be done. The addition was another ladies bathroom. Howard also helped dig trenches to lay the water and gas lines, pull cable for the computers and other miscellaneous jobs.

Howard speaking about Sager-Brown and its mission and needs at the UMVIM Northeast Jurisdiction Celebration & Training Event held in Fatima Retreat Center, Dalton, Pennsylvania

I was assigned to the sewing room, where I cut material and used a serger to make school bags. I also cut bath towels and, using the serger, hemmed them to make hand towels for the health kits. We both spent some time in the Depot where the shipments are received, checked, packed and sent out to the disaster areas as directed by UMCOR Headquarters.

There were three other teams on campus the second week, from Illinois, Missouri and Washington State, so we were not needed to work at the Depot. The first week we were on campus, there was a team of eight from Missouri. They were there to put together health kits, school kits, layettes, flood buckets and sewing kits. We were able to help load a container with health kits and school kits to be shipped to Russia, one of the disaster areas.

The Depot is waiting for direction and a list of needed supplies to help respond to the flooding in south Florida. Sager-Brown is also the distribution place for government surplus food for the Baldwin area. The Baldwin area Catholic Relief Organization packages the food and delivers it to Sager-Brown, where the Sager-Brown staff distributes the boxes to the elderly and needy. Trustees from the local prison, as part of their community service, carry the boxes to cars for the recipients. They serve about 750 each month.

UMCOR Sager-Brown receives most of its funding from the One Great Hour of Sharing campaign held in most United Methodist Churches and from individuals that designate the UMCOR advance number on their checks. UMCOR does not receive any monies from World Church Services, a division of the United Brethren, although they do the same kind of disaster relief work.

On the day before we left for home Howard was able to lead the staff in their morning devotions. After the day’s work we said our goodbyes and promised we would return, and maybe bring a team of volunteers back with us. We also speak on UMCOR Sager-Brown at our local church and other churches in the New England Conference and other places if asked. We had a display table at the Northeastern Jurisdiction UMVIM Rally held near Scranton, Pennsylvania. We have both learned a lot from this volunteering opportunity and look forward to returning to Sager-Brown and the friends we made while there.

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