Home for retired school crossing guard dedicated after collaborative effort

Published 8:19 am Friday, March 1, 2024

Wilford Miller, 82,known in the Iowa, Louisiana community as a man of faith, retired school crossing guard and someone who could be counted on to help others has a place to call home.

The 1,000-square-foot, two bedroom, one-bath home was blessed and dedicated Thursday, a testament to how collaboration between faith-based ministries, neighbors, local officials and a local foundation get things done when they work toward a single end. In the house blessing led by Mennonite Disaster Services volunteer Erv Williams, “the home was a result of area partnerships working together to God’s glory.” Plenty of players had a part.

Randy Roach, former Lake Charles Mayor, gave closing remarks at the dedication and called it a “good report,” the kind of thing Paul talked about in his letter to the Phillipians recommending the things they should think on, the true and good things, and an answer to a question that’s often voiced in discouraging times. Where is God in all of this? Roach said that answer could be found in many of the faces at the dedication and the work each  did, as well as in a new home for Miller.

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The house was built by Mennonite Disaster Services (MDS), one of the first volunteer groups to show up in Southwest Louisiana after Hurricanes Laura and Delta in 2020.  Steve Barth, MDS Project Director, said the materials alone cost $110,000. Shingles, foundation and windows meet new gold standards for wind resistance. Almost 200 MDS volunteers built the house, cumulatively.

If there was a tornado headed this way, that’s the house I would want to be in,” Barth said.   

Miller’s house is one of six built by MDS. Others are in Jennings and Welsh.

Funding for the Miller house was provided by Catholic Charities, United Way and the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana.

Cynthia Julian, Catholic Charities, said the house was furnished – completely – with monies from the Church of Christ national “second collection.”

An Iowa community member purchased the lot and donated it for the house, and the house will be held in a trust for future residents who meet certain criteria. .

Case management was provided by Southwest Louisiana Responds and Fuller Center for housing provided resilient building materials and methods oversight.

Fuller Center’s Greta Willis was at the dedication. She considers it a good report, but she’s hoping it’s not the last one to come out of the area. She said a number of requests for repairs and rebuilds remain unanswered with more coming in every week. She visited a Sulphur home in need of repair and she said she’s worried the owner might fall through the floor before repairs are funded and completed.

“The need for funding and volunteers is dire,” Willis said.

Barth said MDS is winding down its work because of a lack of funding for materials, even though property has been made available.

The New York snowbird will head home and report to the next disaster stricken area, “wherever God leads,” he said.