There was a fire at the United Methodist Children's Home last night and Leigh Cottage, one of the boy's cottages, was destroyed. There were no injuries among the 9 residents (aged 13 to 21) or the staff and the residents have been relocated into another cottage on campus. The cause of the fire is under investigation. The UM Children's Home is one of the oldest orphanages in the country, having been built in 1871 to house orphans from the Civil War. There is room for 72 kids on campus, but only about 60 are there currently. However, more than 1500 kids are served by the staffing at the Children's Home. Leigh Cottage was just recently renovated, having been built in 1920. On the news tonight, there was some debate if the cottage would be rebuilt.
I spent quite a bit of time there in the 1970's and 1980's as a volunteer. It is directly across from the campus of Columbia Theological Seminary and many students of that school have spent hours there, as well. In the late 1980's, I had several of those kids in my classroom. My heart goes out to them -- they are kids who have much less than most and now they have lost all of their material possessions. God help them.
And I have been talking to a couple of friends who are seriously suffering because of the drought. One is a car-wash worker who has been laid off because of the water restrictions. They are in our school district; they have kids in classes with mine. They were scraping by as it is -- now they don't know where they will be in a month or what they will do. Another friend has owned a landscaping business for 30 years and may have to default on loans. They too may lose their house and all they own. The drought is the worst known in Georgia. The number of jobs lost is closing in on 81,000 and in the last 6 weeks, we have had agricultural losses nearing $2 billion. The livestock in rural Georgia are suffering. Trees are dying; crops are dried up. The East Lake reservoir is completely dried up. Bear Creek will be next. Lake Lanier is projected to last approximately 90 days according to the Corp of Engineers -- 9 months according to others (but I don't believe it).
Other towns are suffering as well. In Orme, Tennessee all water is being trucked in. In North Carolina there are restaurants who are using paper plates to conserve water. The one bright thing -- this crisis could have occurred during our record heat wave and we could still be fighting out-of control wildfires.