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The Making of a Shelter: Miss Becky and her “Angels”

Post and photo by Jay Bonafede, American Red Cross

Johnnie B. Walker and her family were forced from their Denham Springs home when much of Louisiana was affected by massive flooding in mid-August. They initially evacuated to a store parking lot, but were trapped there by the rising waters overnight, until military trucks brought them to a makeshift shelter set up at the Satsuma Community Center.

red cross Louisiana flood“That’s when Miss Becky and her angels showed up,” Johnnie says of shelter manager Becky Bowie and the Red Cross volunteers who worked to turn the makeshift shelter into something more pleasant for everyone.

When Becky arrived, she met a single father with six kids who had been sleeping on the floor.

“When I set up the cots, he just started crying, hugged me and said, ‘Thank you, God,’” Becky said. Since then, the shelter moved to the North Park Recreation Center, but the volunteers and residents remain a tight-knit group.

“Anything we needed, they made it happen, and they’re still making it happen,” said Johnnie. “They treat everyone like family.”

“We practically live together, laugh and cry with each other,” Becky says. “The hard part is yet to come. Leaving, leaving them.”

“We know the volunteers have to go back to their families, but we’re all gonna cry,” says Johnnie, or “Mama J” as Becky calls her. “You’ve got to look out for each other in times like this. They treat us awesome.”

Photo caption: North Park Recreation Center shelter manager Becky Bowie (L) calls resident Johnnie B. Walker “Mama J”. The two have been together since massive flooding ravaged much of Louisiana nearly two weeks ago. “Something good’s got to come out of this,” Walker says. “They treat us like family. When they leave, we’re going to cry.”