Celebrate Central: Hope in Help

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By Mia Freneaux
Up til now, whenever I’ve written a “Celebrate Central”, I have focused on someone or something amazing in our community.  But here we are, at the anniversary of the Flood of 2016, and while many are thankfully back in their houses and their lives have returned to normal, many are not.  After doing a bit of research, I have collected some Hope in the form of Help for those still rebuilding their lives.
Since the flood, Samaritan’s Purse has been stationed at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.  Immediately after the flood their Disaster Relief Team stayed there, then in October their Rebuilding Team moved in.  According to their website, Samaritan's Purse is "a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, and famine with the purpose of sharing God’s love through His Son, Jesus Christ." According to the site director Jamie, people from all over our nation have driven and flown in to spend their vacation time volunteering to help Central get back on its feet.  To apply for assistance, you must first talk to Jamie at 397-6953.  A case worker will then contact you and assess your needs, at which point an application for assistance will be submitted to the organization.  Needs are assessed on a financial and age-related basis.  The best news – Samaritan’s Purse has committed to being in Central until October of 2018!
The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been housed at Blackwater United Methodist Church  and Magnolia United Methodist Church since the flood.  According to their website, UMCOR "is a ministry of The United Methodist Church …and our goal is to assist the most vulnerable persons affected by crisis or chronic need without regard to their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. We believe all people have God-given worth and dignity." 100% of their designated donations go to the projects donors specify.  UMCOR provides humanitarian relief in more than 80 countries when war, conflict, or natural disaster disrupt life to such an extent that communities are unable to recover on their own.  They have joined forces with Habitat for Humanity, with Habitat providing rebuilding materials and UMCOR providing the voluntary labor. Mission teams from as far away as Washington State have come to Central, paying their own way and for their own food. UMCOR has made at least a two year commitment to this area, and will continue beyond that if volunteers continue to sign up to help. Individuals may call the United Methodist Conference Office at 324-9283 and leave their contact information. They will be called back for screening.
The St. Alphonsus St. Vincent DePaul Food Pantry provides food for those in need in the Greenwell Springs area.  To qualify, you must call 261-4650.  The pantry is located at 14040 Greenwell Springs Rd.  and is open on Wednesdays from 9:00-12:00.  Please note that the Central Food Bank location and hours will be changing in September.  See page 2 for details.
The Central Food Bank is located at 13366 Hooper Rd., Suite A.  It provides food for Central residents.  You must bring proof of residency to qualify.  The Food Bank is open Tuesday 10:00-1:00. Call 261-8098 for more information.
Restore Louisiana is still working to get funds and help to those who flooded last year.  The program consists of two steps: a survey and an application. The survey may be completed online at or by calling (866) 735-2001, and should take about 15 minutes from start to finish. After completing the survey, homeowners will be invited to complete an application based on their answers to the survey and the phase for which they may qualify. Supporting documentation will be required during the application step to verify eligibility for financial assistance. Assistance will be distributed over several phases; as the state continues to seek more funding from Congress, the program may expand to include additional phases.  Everyone who flooded is encouraged to complete the survey, regardless of whether you have already received assistance, whether you had insurance, etc.  Many who flooded have still not completed the survey.  The results of the survey will be used to determine the order in which people receive assistance if and when additional funding becomes available.
That so many are so willing to come from all over to reach out and offer help in the hour of greatest need really IS something to Celebrate!