JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Englewood Baptist Church in Jackson, Tenn., voted unanimously Feb. 10 to open the entire Old English Inn, which the church owns and operates, to Union University students displaced by the Feb. 5 tornado that destroyed much of Union’s on-campus housing.
The church action means that about 300 Union students will live at the hotel through December. Union has renamed the facility the Phil and Marilyn Jett Inn, in honor of longtime Englewood pastor Phil Jett, for the time that Union will use the facility.
“I want to thank Pastor Ben Mandrell and Mr. Paul Priddy, as well as the entire Englewood family, for their generous support of Union University during this challenging moment in our history,” Union President David S. Dockery said. “Their offer to provide housing for up to 300 Union University students is a mark of Christian charity and a genuine evidence of their love and support for the students of this institution.”
Mandrell, Englewood’s senior pastor, and Priddy, the church’s executive, approached Dockery about the possibility of the church helping Union by opening the hotel and Christian conference center to students.
“Englewood Baptist Church has had a historic relationship with Union University, which includes our faithful ministry to faculty, staff and students for many years,” Mandrell said. “The opportunity to serve Union at this critical time in the life of the university enables us to carry out our mission to love God, love people and serve the world in a very tangible way.”
Initial plans are for about 180 women to live on the top floor, while about 120 men will stay on the bottom floor. In addition to the student rooms, the Phil and Marilyn Jett Inn has study rooms, gathering rooms and wireless Internet service throughout the facility.
Dockery noted: “It is an exciting opportunity to think that we can house almost 300 students together in a new residence life situation for the good of the students and the enhancement of new student life efforts at Union University.”
Housing accommodations for Union’s nearly 1,100 residential students have been a top priority for university administrators following the tornado, in which 51 students were injured. In addition to the 300 students at the Phil and Marilyn Jett Inn, current plans are for another 350 students to continue living in undamaged dormitories on campus when classes resume the week of Feb. 18.
About 250 students have secured their own off-campus housing, and Union expects to place about 200 other students in the homes of Union faculty, staff and friends.
Since students already have been charged for their on-campus housing for the semester, they will have some financial options from which to choose. Housing at the Phil and Marilyn Jett Inn will cost about 30 percent less than on-campus housing, so students placed at the hotel may choose to receive a credit of 30 percent of their on-campus housing costs. Or, they may donate up to that 30 percent to Union’s disaster relief fund.
For students who have secured their own housing, Union will credit their accounts.
More specific details about student housing efforts are expected to be available this week. Union’s student services personnel will call each student to communicate various details and options.
In other recovery-related matters, FEMA set up a mobile unit at Union on Sunday to offer assistance to students affected by the tornado. According to the university’s www.uurecovery.com website, all Union students who were living on campus are encouraged to register with FEMA in order to be considered for possible reimbursement for any uninsured losses. But they should first call FEMA to verify eligibility before traveling to the mobile unit. The FEMA number is 1-800-621-3362. TTY users can dial 1-800-462-7585 to use the Federal Relay Service. FEMA is on the Web at www.fema.gov. The mobile unit will be located at 675 Vann Drive (the old Lord’s Gym location).
Students also are encouraged to contact the American Red Cross to determine if they qualify for vouchers for short-term aid. The Red Cross has stationed its workers on the Union campus at 1981 Hollywood Drive (the old USJ Building). They can be contacted at (731) 427-5543.
Tim Ellsworth is Union University’s director of news and media relations.