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La. Baptist Children’s Home offers shelter to Katrina orphans

MONROE, La. (BP)–The Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home in Monroe, La., has begun taking in children and families displaced by the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, executive director Perry Hancock said.

“We’re accepting children. Some of them are going to be long-term; some are going to be short-term,” he told Baptist Press Sept. 2. “It seems like many of the families have been separated because the parents asked people to take their children out of the city and [the adults] stayed.”

The children’s home started by receiving three boys — two 12-year-olds and a 13-year-old — brought to them by members of First Baptist Church in New Orleans. The church had worked with residents of inner city housing projects before the hurricane, and as the storm approached, the parents of the boys urged the church members to take them along as they evacuated.

“They couldn’t take the whole family. So some of those children are displaced from their families and we don’t actually know about the health of their families,” Hancock said.

The three boys are doing well, he said, “but of course their little lives have been turned upside down, not knowing if their parents are still alive.”

Hancock also said that some people from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary had worked with inner city residents and he had received word that they had evacuated some children and a grandmother to Alabama but were making plans to move them to the Louisiana children’s home.

“And we were told [Sept. 1] we’re going to get a call … from a children’s home that was actually in Covington and now they don’t have anywhere to put their children,” Hancock said. “So we don’t know how many we’re going to bring in.”

Meanwhile, children’s homes in other states are reaching out. Officials with the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes estimate the number of children and families in that ministry could more than double in the next two to three weeks. TBCH has four campuses

Two families arrived at the Brentwood, Tenn., campus Sept. 1, and leaders at the Bartlett and Millington campuses were preparing for arrivals, according to Bryant Millsaps, TBCH president and treasurer. The Chattanooga campus also will be available, he said.

In an Aug. 31 conference call, Millsaps said the staff decided to make their facilities available, provide counseling and education, and offer vans to pick up children and families in need. Before he could call the Red Cross to offer help, the Red Cross instead called him, requesting placement for two families.

To accommodate needs, Millsaps said administrators on all campuses are readying apartments and homes. Also, the number of children residing in each cottage is being increased temporarily from six to eight. With 112 children and families currently in residence, the number could escalate as high as 275, he said.

“We’re in the family business,” said Ivan Raley, vice president of the TBCH’s Middle Tennessee Region. “Our part is just to be Christian, to be the hand of Christ. The people of Tennessee have made it possible for us to do this through their long-standing support of the children’s homes.”

As the children arrive at the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, Hancock and other staff members are working to get them enrolled in the local school system, where they will be classified as homeless.

“I just talked with the principal from our elementary school this morning and the superintendent of the Monroe City Schools. So we’re going to get the children in school,” he said.

The children are being housed in cottages with other residents of the home, which usually number about 70 young people, Hancock said.

“That’s our main work. But we’ve had some people who are helping us financially, and we’re providing some immediate aid for families with children who’ve been displaced [and are seeking refuge in the Monroe community],” he added. “So we’re not just doing the residential care but we’re providing funds and resources for families with children who are simply displaced.”

In addition to housing children and distributing aid to the community, the Louisiana children’s home has opened some efficiency apartments normally used by visitors. Hancock said those are now full of families from the Mississippi coast and New Orleans.

“Two are Mississippi families that have little children, and their homes are just gone,” he said. “So they’re going to stay with us probably for two or three months. Today we do have room for more children. We don’t have any more room for families.”

Hancock told BP he estimates they could house another 25 to 30 children, and help is being offered from children’s homes in other states.

“I personally have had calls from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, South Carolina — all of those Baptist children’s homes have called and said, ‘When you get full, we’ll come and help you.’”

Even the kids at the Louisiana children’s home have asked if there is something they can do to relieve the pain plaguing the hurricane victims.

“Our children who are here have asked if they can give some of their allowance money to help the other children,” Hancock said. “So tomorrow our children are going to spend the day putting items together for the children who are in need.”

The scope of need among children evacuated from the Gulf Coast is going to be overwhelming, Hancock predicted.

“This is truly just beginning. We don’t know how many children are going to be orphans.”
For more information about the Louisiana Baptist Children’s Home, visit www.lbch.org.
— With reporting from Linda Lawson.

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  • Erin Curry