Church group aids hurricane victims

WESTPORT The Westport Bible Church hasnt forgotten about the horrific floods in New Orleans. Twelve volunteers from the church, including two from Crown Point, visited the west bank of New Orleans from Feb. 26-March 8 to offer a helping hand. While there, the group helped install sheetrock in two residences. The trip was the second such visit by members of the church. Pastor Dick Hoff said the church had gotten involved by collecting $800 for hurricane relief, and then deciding to send people to help. A mission went last year to offer manpower, connecting with the Berean Bible Church of New Orleans, which supplied housing, shower facilities and access to a kitchen. People who went on the trip included Pastor Dick and Lynn Hoff, Forrest and Bev Spaulding, Pete Marchioni of Crown Point, Roland Macey of Crown Point, Pam Murphy, Roberta DAmico, Ron Novak, Erik Juntti, Ray Smith and Lemar Steele. We want to show the love of the Lord and we have, said Lynn Hoff, who helped out by cooking for the group. This year, members of the Westport Bible Church returned to the city. We got attached to the church they were happy we were there, said Pastor Hoff. Bev and Forrest Spaulding of Westport returned for a second year. Forrest coordinated both trips. People who went on the trip purchased their own plane tickets. Some had to take vacation time to make the trip. I just wanted to do something I get more satisfaction doing something helpful than doing something for pay, said Forrest Spaulding. Forrest Spaulding said he planned to return several more times over the next three to five years. One of the contractors hed spoken with said it could take as long as 30 years for New Orleans to be entirely rebuilt. He noted that people were appreciative at having the help. Last year, the group helped people with gutting houses, which had some mixed feelings among the homeowners. Sheetrocking homes was a more positive experience. (Last year) you were putting their whole lives on the sidewalk. This year, we got to see their smiles, said Forrest Spaulding. Bev Spaulding said members of the church had developed a special relationship with one of the home owners, Jan Braun of St. Bernard Parish. Braun helped out with the renovations on her home, and attended church with the Westport group during their visit. Shes maintained contact with parishioners from the New Orleans trip. While Braun had insurance, the amount she received wasnt enough to purchase labor. It was an equal opportunity storm. It didnt matter how much money you had, it hit everyone, said Forrest Spaulding. Pastor Hoff said that the pictures relayed by the media couldnt tell the whole story. More than 1.5 million people were displaced by the storm, and about a third havent returned. If you went strictly by the pictures, you would assume its back to normal, said Pastor Hoff, adding that hospitals, churches and schools are among the facilities still closed by the damage. People just need to realize theres still plenty to do and anybody can be useful. Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005. The storm resulted in billions of dollars worth of damage, and hundreds of lives lost. When the levees broke in New Orleans, the result was the flooding of the city, which lays below sea level. Anyone interested in organizing a trip to help out in New Orleans, or accompanying members of the Westport Bible Church on a future trip can call 962-8247 for more information.

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