DENHAM SPRINGS — The Rev. Jacqueline King’s is one step closer to fulfilling her church’s mission of creating a place of healing, refuge and restoration.
First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs hosted a disaster-relief training seminar taught by the American Red Cross Ready When the Time Comes program. The seminar, which was free, provided information for setting up, sustaining and closing an emergency shelter, said Nancy Malone, public affairs spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Louisiana.
The church has partnered with the American Red Cross and offered its facilities to be used as an emergency shelter. Saturday’s seminar included three classes, which introduced members of the community to disaster services, including hands-on demonstrations that taught participants how to erect cots and handle food and medicine, among other things, Malone said. Approximately eight Red Cross volunteers were present to help the 37 participants, King said.
“The tradition of the United Methodist Church is to be the place where faith and action meet,” King said. “We serve with our hand and heart and work in harmony with the Red Cross and other missional groups. We are thankful for this opportunity to partner with the historic and prestigious Red Cross organization.”
Longtime church member Don Allen first had the idea for the seminar, King said.
“I have been wanting to be in a church that was Red Cross ready,” King said. “Since I’ve been here, I have wanted this to happen in this facility, and I was glad that one of my church members, Don Allen, approached me initially on the subject. I’ve supported that desire in the best way that I can.”
Allen’s desire to partner with the American Red Cross stemmed from the tragic burning of the church’s facilities in 2007.
“After our church burning, people came to help us — not just members of our church, but the whole community,” he said. “It was a ministry within itself. That bond of community inspired members of the church to want to give back. The rebuilding of our church was a healing process.”
Joyce Annison, a fellow member of the First United Methodist Church of Denham Springs and a nurse, recounted the effects of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the later burning of the church. As they faced reconstruction, the church, with Bob Hill serving as building chairman, chose to design the facilities to be used as a shelter. Extra showers and a washroom were installed in the church’s Family Life Center, Annison said.
“This training is so important for a time of disaster,” Annison said. “At the time, (Katrina) was an instant emergency. Now, we know how to set up. I think we’re more prepared now. The Red Cross are instant responders.”
“It really has worked out lovely,” King said about Saturday’s efforts to train volunteers. “This is a church that I am thankful for. It’s a beautiful church, and they are beautiful people — really beautiful people … It’s really a part of our DNA as United Methodists. Our hands and our hearts are connected.”