10/19/05 — La. family is starting life over in Wayne

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La. family is starting life over in Wayne

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on October 19, 2005 1:46 PM

A family who lost everything in Louisiana during Hurricane Katrina is starting life over in Wayne County thanks to a local church.

Pine Forest United Methodist Church has adopted the Morris family and set them up in a home here. The family includes Iris, 48; daughter Alicia, 21; sons, Gary, 16, and Jerel, 15; and grandchildren, Tierra, 2, and Zaven, 1.

Relocated family

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

The Morris family, from left, Jerel holding Zaven, Alicia, Gary and Iris holding Tierra. The family was relocated from Gretna, La., to Wayne County with help from Pine Forest United Methodist Church.

The Morrises lived in Gretna, La., on the outside of Orleans Parrish. They were staying in a hotel while waiting to move into a house, but before they could move, the hurricane hit and destroyed that home.

Mrs. Morris worked at a different hotel from the one in which the family was staying and was working the night the hurricane hit.

The whole family weathered the storm at the hotel where Ms. Morris worked, but that hotel lost power and had its windows blown out, and walls blown down. None of her family were injured, though, Ms. Morris said.

The hotel where the family was living was also damaged.

"We had two rooms, and my daughter decided to take her children and go into the other room," Ms. Morris said. "Thank God for that because the whole roof in her room collapsed. We lost everything we had. Then, everybody was living in one room."

So, the family was forced to move to the hotel where Ms. Morris worked.

"We stayed there without lights, water, food," she said. "There was no place open to get food and water. Some people brought around some water. They opened one store, but the police closed it down. We lived on only snack foods."

Ms. Morris said during that time, all the family could do was wait.

"We sat outside," she said. "Nighttime would come, and we'd go upstairs and try to sleep in the heat. If not, you'd walk back down the steps and just sit. You couldn't do any of the normal things. You couldn't take a bath. The little water we had, we had to save it. No doing laundry. Of course, by that time, we didn't have anything to wash. Everything was gone."

For three days, that was life for the Morrises.

Ms. Morris had taken only a pair of pants and a shirt to work with her before the hurricane hit. "I was thinking by Tuesday, there'd be a little damage, and we could get back to our lives as we do with storms," she said. "But it didn't work like that."

She said by Thursday (three days later), things were getting kind of rough all over with the police and other people. So the family left Gretna to go to Lafayette, courtesy of her hotel's general manager.

They stayed there until Oct. 12 when two Pine Forest church members -- Dr. Frank Farrell and Larry Grady -- drove down and brought them back to Wayne County.

During that time, they had no clue where they were going to go or what they were going to do.

"We were just taking one day at a time, trying to survive," Ms. Morris said. "It was like reality didn't really set in. You look at it on TV and still don't believe it happened to the people around you or to the cities you lived in. Even though we were there and went through it, we still couldn't believe it had happened."

One day Ms. Morris noticed a flier at the hotel in Lafayette stating that churches would help those who wanted to relocate to other states.

She Morris filled out a form and picked North Carolina as her new home.

The family was going to come to North Carolina by bus, but Grady said it would be unfair to have them ride on a bus for 23 hours with small children.

So Grady and Farrell drove down to Lafayette in a van and picked the family up. Motels down there were either damaged or full so the pair ended up spending the night in the van at a rest stop in Louisiana.

Grady said the idea to adopt an evacuee family came from the church's Friendship Sunday school class.

"Franklin Graham of Samaritan's Purse had said that if every church took a family, then everybody would be taken care of," said Grady.

So Farrell contacted Samaritan's Purse, which put the church in touch with the Foundation of Hope. The foundation located the Morrises.

Grady said the church had to agree to do everything for the family for 90 days.

"This is a mission for this church," he said. "From the time we talked with the Morrises until the time we got them here, it's just been a wonderful thing, a blessing for us."

When the Morrises arrived in their new home, which the church rented for them, the cupboards had been filled with food and dishes by church members. Church members also donated furniture for the house and bought clothes for the family. Several local businesses also donated food, household items, furniture and even a van for the family to use.

"The church has done a lot for us, spiritually, mentally, physically," Ms. Morris said. "They got us this home and supplied everything that we need. It makes us feel better to know that people care. That really touched my heart. I feel like we are back in life again."

Grady said the Morrises think the church is doing so much good for them, but "they're doing so much for us."

Ms. Morris said she plans on living in Wayne County for the rest of her life. "Right now, I'm very content. I like this area and the people."

Although Pinewood Church has helped this family, there are so many more who still need assistance, Grady said. "When we picked this family up in Lafayette, we left hundreds in that motel," he said. "That motel was totally full. We left families just like the Morrises.

"There is a need. If other churches would just step up to the plate, they would not only be doing a good thing, but it's going to be such a blessing to that church."