Feature: Beyoncé Helps Hometown

Global superstar Beyoncé, a longtime member of St. John’s UMC, recently made a generous donation to help with Hurricane Harvey Relief and is inspiring others to do the same.

This month, Houston native Beyoncé returned home to team up with Pastor Rudy Rasmus at her home church, St. John’s UMC to help victims of Hurricane Harvey start piecing their lives back together. She told families at the church and shelter that St. John’s had profoundly impacted her — as the site of her first solo — and that she wanted to demonstrate her hometown pride by providing help and hope.

Joined by her daughter Blue Ivey, mom Tina Knowles Lawson, Blue Ivy and band mate Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé thanked Pastor Rudy for being a lifelong example of life and love.

According to an article by NBC writer Gwendolyn Quinn, Beyoncé has previously partnered with her pastor on global outreach initiatives, including her highly-publicized anti-hunger campaigns and food programs in conjunction with her concert tours, and came to town to do that again in a big way. The Houston native and her foundation, BeyGOOD partnered with Pastor Rudy’s Bread of Life non-profit organization, founded 25 years ago through St. John’s to help with needs like this current flooding crisis.

Speaking to the audience full of survivors, she shared, “Today is a celebration of survival. The thing that really matters is your health, and your children, and your family. And I just want to say I love you. I’m so, so thankful to God that I’ve been blessed, so that I can bless other people, and I ask God to continue to do that for other people.”

Rev. Rasmus has known Beyoncé since she was a young girl and has worked with her to coordinate humanitarian opportunities all over the world in recent years. Expressing thanks for her sizable September donation, he said, “Beyoncé has been an amazing friend and generous supporter. She has helped us do some significant work in the Houston area and she is totally committed to the recovery efforts on behalf of Hurricane Harvey.” On September 12, Beyoncé linked arms with other celebrities to host a television special to raise additional money for victims of Harvey and the more recent Hurricane Irma in Florida and surrounding states.

He noted that Houston has long benefited from many contributions made by Beyoncé and the extended Knowles family, including the Knowles-Rowland Center for Youth, which started in 2002 through St. John’s Church. “I often say that the Knowles-Rowland Center was built on Destiny’s Child hit single, ‘No, No, No.’ Destiny’s Child came through and help [Bread of Life] to build up a gymnasium as an outreach center for young people in our community,” Rudy adds.

With tens of thousands of people displaced and adversely affected by some three trillion gallons of rainfall, Pastor Rudy and the Bread of Life team have already begun outreach and recovery efforts.

According to Rudy, the Bread of Life has set up a disaster case-management component to walk people through the process of getting back on their feet. The organization is now receiving support from all over the country, including donations of money and non-perishable essentials and supplies, including personal hygiene products, cleaning supplies, diapers, wheelchairs, blankets, pillows, and other items people needed for the long haul.

Further, Bread of Life is providing temporary and permanent housing and financial support to many, and has coordinated disaster relief cleanup crews, ground transportation needs for individuals and families; cleanup kits; and household appliances. Displaced families will also have access to a tool bank, where they can borrow a variety of construction tools and do the necessary work on their homes themselves.

Thousands Homeless

“There are a lot of people who never imagined themselves being homeless, who are homeless right now, and our goal is to help soften the blow as much as we can for those men, women, and children,” notes Rudy.

The Bread of Life has prepared a Hurricane Harvey Recovery Guide as a resource for those impacted by the storm. The organization is also building and utilizing relationships in the mental health community for people who will experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

St. John’s United Methodist Church has locations in both the downtown and the Northwest sections of the city. Pastor Rudy co-pastors with his wife of 32 years, Juanita. Culturally and ethnically diverse, St. John’s has more than 9,000 members with 95 percent being people of color across every strata of the social-economics spectrum.

Beyoncé and family have also been instrumental in assisting Bread of Life with apartment buildings specifically constructed for the chronically homeless. The first property built under the corporation is the Knowles Temenos Place Apartment, a 42-unit, single occupancy permanent housing unit financially supported by the Knowles family. The corporation constructed two other buildings with help from other donors.

Pastor Rudy adds, “The big challenge is to find adequate housing for residents with nowhere to go. Beyoncé is aiding us in offering hope and help in the midst of this human tragedy of epic proportions.”