St. John looking to churches for emergency help

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 3, 2011



LAPLACE – In an effort to fill a potential void in the disbursement of food and supplies following hurricanes and other emergencies, St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom is enlisting the help of parish faith-based organizations to ensure needed supplies go to the right place in a timely fashion.

Robottom and her staff recently held an organizational meeting with representatives from churches throughout the parish to gauge interest in the faith-based plan, and more than 25 individuals representing 16 churches were in attendance.

“Faith-based organizations have traditionally served as a crutch for state and local governments in times of extreme need,” Robottom said. “The plan is to organize what we have so that we know where to go and who to go to when the time comes to take action. We will have an idea of which church has necessary facilities.”

Parish spokesperson Paige Braud said many of the representatives who came for the meeting were on hand to help parish officials in the wake of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.

“They have been here before and they know what to do,” Braud said. “Many of these organizations deal with this sort of thing on a regular basis. They take care of people when they need help. We can’t get to everyone, but we can communicate with church representatives and they can relay information and supplies where needed.”

In addition to pinpointing needs, Braud said many of the organizations also offer volunteers, clothing, shelter, meals, a functioning kitchen, parking areas and storage space in ways that exceed the capabilities of local government.

“There are so many churches in St. John Parish, and lots of people are involved in those churches,” Braud said.

“We want to have a source for volunteers that are willing to offer things we can’t like counseling and support after a disaster. The meetings also serve as a way for church leaders to get a plan in place for their own parishioners when the time comes to take action,” she added.

One of the church leaders on hand for the meeting was Pastor Neil Bernard of New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace. Bernard said New Wine played a role in recovery and support following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“When Katrina hit, the parish saw first hand that they were unable to meet all the needs of all of the people,” Bernard said. “Faith-based organizations have the ability to get the resources. There are 65 churches in St. John, and when all of us and all of our resources are united, we can make a difference for those who need help.”

Braud said the parish is aiming to get one or two contacts from each church that can be called on immediately when the time comes, and those contacts can relay info as necessary to other groups and church members.

All faith-based groups are invited to attend the next meeting and become members of the organization, Braud said.

The next meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 4, at 3 p.m. at the council chambers in the Percy Hebert Building, 1801 W. Airline Highway, LaPlace. For more information, contact the parish office at 985-652-9569.