Latham Springs Camp provides respite for residential health facility”s hurricane evacuees for third time since 2005

Baptist camp sheltered evacuees during Katrina, Ike, Harvey

LATHAM SPRINGS, Texas—When Devereux Texas Executive Director Pam Reed realized it would be necessary to evacuate residents, teachers and staff from the non-profit’s residential behavioral health facilities in League City and Victoria, Texas, because of Hurricane Harvey, she knew just whom to call: Latham Springs Camp and Conference Center, a Baptist facility located 25 miles northwest of Waco.

After all, Latham Springs had twice provided shelter for the group during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and again in 2008 when Hurricane Ike hit.

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“In 2005, preparing for the evacuation, we reached out to camps all around Texas, and Latham Springs said, ‘We’re here for you.’ We made contact with them and immediately became fast friends,” Reed said.

As Harvey threatened, Reed again turned to Latham Springs for help.

“This is a camp we are very familiar with. We love the people. We love the environment.

“The kids are really having a good time. It’s very peaceful, and there are lots of fun activities: nature walks, human foosball. It feels like camp,” Reed said. “And when you are in a crisis or disaster mode and you can come to a place like this, you get relaxed very quickly and the kids calm down. They get their basic needs met, and they start to feel like kids, and they have fun.”

Reed and staff brought more than 200 children and intellectually and developmentally delayed (IDD) adults to Latham Springs, accompanied by more than 125 staff members, including teachers and medical personnel.

Once they arrived on site, significant needs became quickly apparent.

“Mike [Wilson], the camp director said, ‘What do you need? How can we help? He put people in action, contacted the sheriff and reached out to [Southern Baptists of Texas Convention Disaster Relief],” Reed explained.

Reed also praised the generosity of the surrounding community for providing donations, remarking that the whole experience was a valuable “life lesson” for the children in achieving an outward focus.

“It’s a wonderful experience for our kids to see all these people whom they have no connection to coming here to help,” Reed said, calling the “concept of volunteering” a bit confusing for some kids who wondered why strangers would offer assistance.

“Maybe someday they’ll have the chance to do what’s being done for them today,” Reed added.

Wilson said he is encouraged by the selfless efforts of the SBTC DR volunteers on site.

“Watching the way God’s folks step up, what a testimony it’s been to these people,” Wilson said. “They will come to the office and ask for this or that, and often while they are still in the office, the need is met as someone drives through the gate.”

Meanwhile, in the recreational vehicle section of the 400-acre camp, apart from the main cabins, lodges and dining facilities, sits an SBTC DR laundry trailer from Lake Athens Baptist Church, operated over the weekend by DR volunteers Jerry Hamilton and Danny Partridge.  

Hamilton and Partridge rotated in at noon on Sept. 2, replacing two couples, including Lake Athens pastor Mike Curry and his wife. Hamilton and Partridge said they expected another couple to join them in Latham Springs after church Sept. 3.

Inside the trailer, with dryers humming, the men confirmed they expected to continue washing, drying, folding and bagging nearly 50 loads of laundry each day, the amount last week’s volunteers handled.

This deployment marks the “maiden voyage” of the Lake Athens laundry trailer, said SBTC DR director Scottie Stice.

The trailer shell was made available to Lake Athens by the North American Mission Board and the SBTC, Partridge said, explaining that church members wired and finished the inside, adding four stackable washing machine/dryer units and otherwise outfitting it, paying for the improvements with donations. The trailer also features three showers, including one that is ADA compliant.

Sometimes in a disaster, clean clothes and a hot shower make all the difference.

Stice reported that shower and/or laundry units are currently deployed at Coastal Oaks Baptist Church in Rockport, Annaville Baptist Church in Corpus Christi, Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston, Spring Baptist Church in Spring, First Baptist Church in Kountze and Calvary Baptist Church in Beaumont, for use by volunteers, evacuees, shelters and first responders.

As for the special needs group at Latham Springs, Reed said their date of departure is “a bit of a question,” but that repairs were being made to their facilities.

“We are very happy the Baptists can help us,” she added.

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