Pa. shelters New Orleans family

September 09, 2005|by DON AINES


Slim Brumfield spent about 60 of his 77 years in New Orleans, but sitting in a former nursing home in Fayetteville, Pa., Thursday, he said he was not sure he will ever go back.

Playing beside him on the bed in the old Beverly Manor nursing home was his 4-year-old great-granddaughter, Victoria Green, and another member of an extended family. The group from the city devastated by Hurricane Katrina has moved into what is known as Candleheart Center.

"We'll settle down somewhere," said Brumfield, a retired dock worker, who wondered aloud how he would deal with a Pennsylvania winter. "It's been a long time since I've seen snow."


Twenty members of Brumfield's family - the youngest is 2 months old - drove to Franklin County after evacuating New Orleans. They face an uncertain future, although county residents are volunteering aid in the form of food, shelter, clothing, transportation and job offers.

Fifteen of the family members are staying at Candleheart Center, 3301 Lincoln Way East, according to Natalie Newcomer, the director of Maranatha, a faith-based ministry in Chambersburg that recently leased the building for a transitional housing program.

Catrice Brumfield, who worked in a hospital and nursing home in New Orleans, said she was in Chambersburg in July to visit family and thought briefly about moving here.

"God saw something else," said Catrice, who left New Orleans the day before Katrina hit. "He's covering me. He's covering the whole family."

Chambersburg may become her permanent home because "New Orleans is not going to be fit to live in for two or three years. That's what we've been told," Catrice said. The house she owns there is under water, she said.

"We were in the middle of everyone looting ... It looked like something out of a movie," said Emma Brumfield, who tried to weather the storm in a hotel on Bourbon Street. When the canals overflowed and the levees began to give way, she and her boyfriend got into a vehicle her sister left behind and evacuated.

Another sister, Cherlyn Johnson, is in San Antonio, although the rest of the family did not learn that until Monday, Catrice said. Johnson was among the thousands lifted from rooftops by helicopter after the city flooded, Emma said.

The group includes 13 children and a pregnant woman. Catrice, who brought her three children and two foster children, said nine of the children are enrolled in Chambersburg schools.

"We're just trying to keep the family together ... It's basically family that's keeping us going," Emma said.

Melissa Jones, a Realtor with Prudential Franklin Associates, said the firm has "adopted" the family and established a fund at Orrstown Bank to collect funds for their care. Tax-deductible donations may be made to Franklin County Relief Fund and mailed to Prudential Franklin Associates, 730 Norland Ave., Chambersburg, PA 17201.

The Candleheart Center can hold up to 120 people and Newcomer said she expects more to arrive in coming days.

"I just got a call from Mississippi from a person about bringing another 50 people in," Newcomer said.

Newcomer said Maranatha received a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to help run the center as a transitional housing program aimed at serving the homeless in this area. Maranatha also depends on donations to run its programs, she said.

Anyone interested in making a donation or more information may call Maranatha at 717-261-1708, she said.

Jerry Flasher, the director of the Franklin County Department of Emergency Services, announced Thursday that the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is collecting information to serve evacuees in the county who are staying with family, friends, religious organizations or volunteer agencies. The information can be called into the county from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at 717-267-2801.

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