Angels from the North

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Sometime good deeds result from imported labor, in one case a decade’s worth of visits to Dulac from a church-sponsored group quartered in Pennsylvania.

Volunteers from the United Methodist Volunteers in Mission based in Wyalusing, Pa., south of Binghamton, N.Y., began traveling to Dulac for relief work in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita in 2005, a storm that hit the Bayou Region while Louisiana was still in throes of recovering from the devastation caused by Rita’s big sister, Katrina.

On Saturday a crew of ten volunteers arrived in Dulac, for a week of mending railings, perhaps mowing lawns and doing other work for Dulac residents who might have difficulty helping themselves. The crew will also be working on the United Methodist Church’s Clanton Chapel, whose parsonage some of them are using for shelter during the stay.

Team leader Bill Bebe says that anything locals direct they need help with — so long as it doesn’t pose a great danger to the volunteers — is fair game. And their good works are not limited to Dulac. In some situations they have given the same no-strings help to people in Houma.

Bebe said that in the past volunteers helped mend rooftops. But that came to a halt when a volunteer fell off of a Houma roof.

“He broke his back in three places,” Bebe said of the volunteer, Earl Folk of West Wyoming Pa., near Wilkes-Barre.

The group of self-assigned angels, although largely of the Methodist faith, encompass various religions and are not limited to the Keystone State.

“I have one fellow who comes on down from Waukegan, Ill., that I met in Gulfport during a relief effort,” Bebe said. “We go to other places to help but every January we come here.

Bebe said that this year’s showing is comparatively small compared to past trips, when volunteers have numbered as many as twenty-five.

Most, Bebe said, are in the over-50-years-old age range.

“They were well-greeted by the people of our church,” said the Rev. Kirby Verret, pastor of the UMC’s Clanton Chapel. “They are trying to help one woman who broke her arm when she fell while putting gas in her car, her husband was killed in a car wreck three days after attending a Daddy-Daughter dance at the Grand Caillou Gym, and was pregnant for another child. They are helping a woman with Stage 4 cancer whose ceiling is falling. They are helping others who need work around the house but are not capable ceiling is failing , families with bad steps and a bunch of children, and others who need work around the house but are not capable of doing anything because of health or no money. They will also work at the church replacing a copper panel we lost on the steeple and someone sold at the scrapyard, adding double doors in the hallway leading to the sanctuary in our church, even building a ramp on a building so we can store our Z-turn lawnmower. They are truly super people.”

Bebe said the continued trips to Dulac are a high point for him and the volunteer workers.

“We just kind of like the area and the people,” he said. “They are very like family.”

The group came down in a caravan of about five vehicles, carrying two volunteers each. On Monday Bill had already made two trips to Houma from Dulac, picking up supplies at Lowe’s on Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Asked what motivates him and his crews to do what they do, Bill said the answer is rather simple.

“It is the satisfaction of helping somebody,” he said.