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Church center helps reunited family start new life

 


Church center helps reunited family start new life

Oct. 4, 2005

By Betty Backstrom*

BATON ROUGE, La. (UMNS) — Staff at a United Methodist conference center found themselves playing a role in the emotional reunion of a mother and her toddler after Hurricane Katrina.

Antoinette Scott, an employee of the New Orleans Housing Authority, was forced to flee her home with two of her children when Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. The storm made landfall in Louisiana and Mississippi Aug. 29, prompting the evacuation of thousands of people. 

Scott was working in New Orleans until the last minute, helping others evacuate the city. When she arrived home from work, it was too late to leave, so she and two of her children — a 19-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter — rode out the storm. Eventually, the house began to collapse around them.

During the storm, Scott’s 3-year-old son, Arramis, was under the care of his godparents in their New Orleans home. The anxious mother tried to reach the couple, but lack of phone service made it impossible. After many attempts, Scott was forced to evacuate, not knowing the whereabouts of Arramis and his godparents.

She and her two older children fled to the Caney Conference Center, a United Methodist camp site in Minden.

Staff and volunteers at the Caney Center worked tirelessly to locate Arramis. Attempts to find him through missing persons databases on the Internet proved futile.

“It was devastating not knowing where Arramis was,” Scott said. “I tried to have hope, but watching the news and seeing the devastation of the area we lived in just made me more worried about him and his godparents. They both have health problems.”

Finally, two weeks after the storm, Scott’s cell phone rang. It was Arramis’ godparents, saying they had safely evacuated to a National Guard base in Smyrna, Tenn.

After hearing Scott’s story, the owner of an Arkansas gas company lent his private plane to transport her to Tennessee, where she was reunited with her son Sept. 13.

“On the flight to Tennessee, I had butterflies in my stomach. When I saw Arramis, at first, I couldn’t move. He broke out running for me, but I think he was just as excited to see the plane as he was to see me,” Scott said with a laugh.

James Parkerson, manager of the Caney center, accompanied her on the flight. “The entire experience was so heartwarming,” he said. “I am proud of the efforts of our volunteers in trying to locate little Arramis. I pray that every missing child will soon be reunited with his or her family.”

Scott plans to relocate in Minden, and the staff and volunteers at the Caney Center shelter are helping her find a job and housing. Although her financial situation is still not stable, she has a few leads on employment.

“The people in Minden are so friendly. There is a different atmosphere here, and I think it will be a better place to raise my children,” she said. “The staff and volunteers at Caney Center try to help everyone. It’s like one big happy family.”

Scott said she hopes her happy ending will give hope to others in the same situation. “I pray that other mothers will see what happened for us and know that anything is possible.”

*Backstrom is editor of Louisiana Now!, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Louisiana Annual Conference.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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