Scientology Organizations Around the World

Inside and Outside the Churches of Scientology Around the World

Storm work increases Church of Scientology Attendance in Louisiana

A friend sent this one in to me — it’s from an article on Scientology that ran in The Advocate, a paper in Baton Rouge, LA.

Photo provided by the Church of Scientology

The
Jaywalkers Second Line Band of New Orleans performs March 4, 2006 for
the reopening of the Church of Scientology Mission on Canal Boulevard
in New Orleans. Band members, from left are, Chuck Brackman, Shawn
Manguno, Brad Stauffer, Jerry Embree, Jerry Dallman and Darlene Embree.
In addition to reopening the New Orleans mission, the church was able
to expand along with Gulf Coast, opening in February 2006 new missions
in Lake Charles and Biloxi, Miss., to go along with existing missions
in Lafayette and Baton Rouge.

LAFAYETTE — The volunteer ministers the Church of Scientology brings to respond to disasters come out of many walks of life.

Dentists,
office managers, roofers and the actress who gives voice to Bart
Simpson all donned the church’s bright yellow T-shirts and went to work.

In
the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, about 1,000 volunteer ministers
from across the United States and Canada came to Louisiana in clusters
of about 300 at any given time, church officials said. They worked with
other faith groups and the Red Cross to assist and in some cases run
the shelters.

While other faith groups that responded —
Catholics, Baptists, Methodists — already had a large presence in the
Gulf Coast region, the Church of Scientology is relatively small.

However,
the visibility and goodwill earned during relief efforts following
hurricanes Katrina and Rita created momentum that has helped the church
open new missions in the region and see increased interest at the ones
it already had.

“We grow as much as we help people,” explained Craig Gehring, an employee at the Church of Scientology’s Mission in Baton Rouge.

In
the year following the hurricanes, the church has opened new missions —
one in Lake Charles and another in Biloxi, Miss. — while reopening the
flood damaged New Orleans mission.

Activity at the Baton
Rouge mission has risen to about 100 people a week taking the various
courses on communication, learning and other topics, up from about 60
to 70 before the storms, Gehring said.

Leaders at the
Baton Rouge mission are contemplating the possibilities for opening a
satellite mission in the north part of the city while finding a larger
replacement for the boxy 7,000-square-foot office building near Old
Hammond Highway and Drusilla Lane that has housed the mission for about
a decade.

In Lafayette, reported activity increased even more.

Marie
Pace, 50, the Church of Scientology’s Lafayette mission holder, said
about 100 to 150 people a week come in for courses, up from 20 to 30 a
few years ago.

Church officials agree that the Lafayette
mission also has one of the more impressive stories of the church’s
hurricane relief efforts.

With the Red Cross tapped out
running shelters along Interstate 10, officials in Vermilion Parish
faced a potential crisis of their own.

“We got a call
that we would be receiving Katrina evacuees by the hordes,” recalled
Tim Cresswell, the shelter coordinator for the Vermilion Parish Office
of Emergency Preparedness. “I was told we needed to open shelters and I
knew the Red Cross was swarmed. I was in a bind.”

Pace came to his rescue, coming to meet with Cresswell and Vermilion Parish Sheriff Mike Couvillon.

“She
(Pace) said they could operate our shelters,” Cresswell said. “I asked
about her background. She said they had worked in tsunamis. I said,
‘that’s good enough for me.’”

The Scientologists ended up organizing 11 shelters and running six of them, Pace said.

“What
happened during Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita is something I
trained for my whole life and we were able to turn around and help
others,” Pace said.

Actress Nancy Cartwright, who is the
voice of Bart Simpson on the long-running animated television series
“The Simpsons,” used her talents to entertain children in the shelters.
Actress Anne Archer was also among the volunteers in the bright yellow
T-shirts.

The shirts make the volunteer ministers easily
recognizable in the aftermath of disasters, whether it be an
earthquake, a flood or hurricane.

“I can’t say enough
about these folks,” Creswell said. “They were all over the place. …
They hunted up rental houses for people. They provided funds for people
that didn’t have gas money. That’s personal funds.”

Pace
recalled how the visibility prompted an unexpected encounter in an
Abbeville restaurant. “A woman who I had never met came up and hugged
me and thanked us.”

As Scientology volunteers took on the
task of coordinating shelter operations, it became apparent that
everyone’s input and energy was welcome and needed, Pace added.

“It
was beautiful to see all the different faith-based groups that came to
the forefront and made it workable,” Pace said. “It was our job to
manage and run it, but we utilized the entire community. When we came
in, they didn’t know us and we didn’t know them.

“Our
communities in south Louisiana are very dependent on faith-based
organizations,” Pace said. “That is key to any community. With outreach
programs, we have a unique ability to help.”

Pace has
been a Scientologist since 1987. She started the Lafayette mission in
1995. One of the main ideas she has learned through scientology,
founded by L. Ron Hubbard, is “no matter what, something can be done
about it.”

That even includes hurricanes.

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This entry was posted on February 21, 2007 by in Orgs Around the World.
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