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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Hurricane Katrina: Caring for the children

Carolyn Bellard serves sandwiches to 45 children evacuated from Bethlehem Children’s Center (www.lsss.org), a Lutheran Social Services of the South residence in East New Orleans for abused and neglected children ages 5 to 17. Bellard’s congregation, Trinity (Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod) in Baton Rouge, La., sheltered residents and staff for several days.
Lynn Johnson of Lutheran Social Services of the South Inc. (www.lsss.org) provided round-the-clock care for children with emotional and behavioral problems while they were sheltered at Trinity, a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod congregation in Baton Rouge, La. At the same time, Johnson worried about her mother and elderly aunt, who awaited rescue for several days on a New Orleans rooftop. It was days before she learned they’d been rescued.

At presstime, an additional worry remained: as many as 40 staff members of Bethlehem Children’s Center, an LSSS residence, remained unaccounted for a little more than a week after the disaster.

“This makes it even more difficult for the [center] staff who evacuated,” said LSSS staffer Katherine Kerr. “They’re grieving lost homes, loved ones, neighbors. To know that colleagues they’ve worked with for years are also missing is awfully tough. We have a grief counselor scheduled to talk with staff and kids at the center.” 

LSSS staff believe the center, which would cost $3 million to rebuild, is a total loss. Since Sept. 2, the children have been relocated to a Corpus Christi, Texas, children’s center, where “we’ve got beds, a home and education waiting for them,” said Kurt Senske, CEO of LSSS. “That’s unlike the situation for most of the children in this disaster.”

“Most of our staff members’ homes are completely destroyed,” Senske added. “We have experience dealing with disasters, but we have less experience trying to put our own lives back together as we provide help.”


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