UMCOR Sager Brown Celebrates 20 Years of Service
Voice. Challenge. Faith. Change. Perseverance. Mission. History. The rich history of UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief) Sager Brown has remained a phenomenon and prophetic voice that has challenged the world’s understanding in regards to race, class, and gender.
While UMCOR Sager Brown celebrates 20 years of committed service in mission, the historic nature and origins of the property are rooted in a desire to annihilate structures of hate, providing a home where African-American children orphaned by the Civil War could begin a new life in the south of Louisiana.
Kathy Kraiza, executive director of Relief Supplies for UMCOR, reflects: “Race issues have certainly been a part of the evolution of Sager Brown. The school and orphanage were started at a very difficult time in our history, while rebuilding this country and especially the South after the Civil War. This mission was a means to address a social injustice by providing an education to African-American children and helping them to become self-sustaining.”
The mission was initially funded by the Freedman’s Aid Society, a predecessor to the Black College Fund of The United Methodist Church, and John Baldwin, a plantation owner. But it took the financial charity and timely belief of two women, Mrs. Addie Sager and Mrs. C. W. Brown, to continue the existing work of the campus—a belief that their fruit could create a space for an evolving door of hope and change.
Sager and Brown then gave the property to the Woman’s Home Missionary Society (a precursor of United Methodist Women) to operate. “I believe they gave it to the Woman’s Home Missionary Society to guarantee the continued operation of this mission for future generations,” Kraiza states.
In 1978, the school and home were put up for sale and remained vacant until 1992, when UMCOR utilized the Sager Brown campus to host volunteers and store relief supplies, following the catastrophic storm of Hurricane Andrew. In 1996, UMCOR Depot was officially opened (and remains the property of the national organization of United Methodist Women).
The mission of UMCOR Sager Brown then shifted to create a hosting depot for volunteers to prepare emergency relief supplies to be shipped internationally, renovate homes, and serve local marginalized communities—respectfully adhering to the historical call of the property, yet further extending The UMC’s dedication to be a healing community.
There is something valuable to be learned from the past and present in shaping the future, as Kathy shared. “I always think history is important to know where we come from, what it took to get to where we are today, and to appreciate the sacrifices that were made for us individually and as a society, so that we may be encouraged to step up and do the same for our neighbors today as well as for generations to come,” she says.
Today, UMCOR Sager Brown is a living, working monument to 145 years of United Methodist mission. UMCOR is a leader in service for The UMC in over 90 countries to those who are hungry, displaced, sick, or in poverty because of natural or human disasters.
The history of UMCOR Sager Brown teaches us to remember, reflect, and reengage with what it means to be in mission. “My hope is that UMCOR Sager Brown will be a beacon of light and hope in this world for many future generations,” says Kraiza.
Your support of UMCOR Sager Brown, Advance #901515 will provide opportunities for volunteers to engage in hands-on mission work.