Lutheran relief group welcomes new leader
BILOXI — Lutherans working to help rebuild Katrinadamaged homes passed their leadership torch — wood from a 500-year-old oak tree — to Jerilyn Dufresne of Milwaukee on Friday.
She succeeds retired Army Chaplain John McRae, who took on the job 11 months ago as state coordinator for Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response and now says “it’s time for me to go home and be with my wife.”
McRae said he is excited about what’s happened here. He praised those who stepped up immediately after the storm and started helping, and the thousands of volunteers who have taken time away from their lives and used their own funds to come here. He said every week 300 new volunteers come in.
Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response has housed, fed and organized more than 15,000 volunteers and done more than 5,300 minor repairs to homes and 600 major repairs, according to LSSDR statistics.
A donation of $18,843 was presented from St. Luke’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Devon, Pa., collected by people there who had been here to work after the storm. The sum incudes $4,000 from Thrivent Financial for Lutherans. So far, said Terry M. King of Slidell, a Thrivent consultant, Lutherans have spent $16 million on Katrina recovery from Texas to Alabama.
Dufresne is a licensed social worker who was working with the Red Cross in Florida helping with tornado recovery when she was notified of this job.
In response to questions about her plans, Dufresne said, “I’m buying a house and getting a puppy. I’m here to stay until I’m not needed any longer.”
PAM FIRMIN/SUN HERALD Jerilyn Dufresne accepts the ceremonial plaque that marks her new role as leader of Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response in Mississippi.