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Flood 2016

When Watson church needed to help flood victims, local grocer came through

BY GEORGE MORRIS | GMORRIS@THEADVOCATE.COM AUG 20, 2016 - 8:00 PM (7)WATSON —

In most cases, a grocery store being located across the street from a church offers neither any real benefit. But last weekend’s flood here wasn’t an ordinary event.

And the connection between Oak Point Fresh Market owner John Sumich and the Rev. Mark Crosby, pastor of Live Oak United Methodist Church, is no ordinary relationship. It certainly wasn’t when the intersection of La. 16 and La. 1019 turned a dry spot into a sea of muddy Amite River water.

When 425 people who escaped those waters arrived at the shelter set up at Live Oak, Crosby didn’t have to look far to find help.

“They were there for us,” Crosby said of the market and its owner. “Whatever we needed, they made sure we had the essentials.”

Those essentials included water, milk, diapers, cooking supplies, dog food, desserts, baking soda, all manner of food and utensils. He didn’t charge a penny, Crosby said.

“We’d send a crew, and he’d meet us in the back at the stock room and load us up,” Crosby said. “We were an island. No one was going to rescue us. We had to do it ourselves.”

That, however, is something familiar to Sumich and Crosby, going back to their days in Buras.

Sumich and his wife, Carmel, were members of Trinity United Methodist Church when Crosby was pastor there in the small Plaquemines Parish town more than two decades ago. Crosby left Buras in 1996. Sumich had grown up there and recalled major hurricanes like Betsy (1965) and Camille (1969). He owned a grocery store there, too.

“We’re used to being helped by people in Buras,” Sumich said. “When we had hurricane problems, the Red Cross and a lot of other wonderful churches and groups all across the United States helped us. It feels really good to be able to pay that Christian outreach forward. So, this was an opportunity for us to be able to help.”

Crosby would say Sumich is too humble.

“In the Buras community, whenever disaster came, they were always the unofficial Red Cross, if you will,” Crosby said. “They even helped the sheriff’s office. When (Hurricane) Katrina came, he stayed behind to make sure the sheriff’s department had what they needed. He’s that kind of guy.”

He didn’t stay behind for long. His friendship with the Crosbys was such that Sumich already was planning to open a store in Watson before Katrina put 23 feet of water in his store. He moved to Watson, started Oak Point Fresh Market and has since opened groceries in Central and Patterson.

“I’m not going to take credit for that,” Sumich said. “The good Lord put us in such a way that he wanted us in a different place, and maybe he wanted us here for today to make sure we were able to try to help people in Watson overcome as we did in Buras.

“Our supermarkets were fortunately not flooded, and we knew that it would be a little bit of time before the Red Cross and others got here ...," Sumich said. "We felt very honored and fortunate to be able to help them in that time of need to make sure those people could be fed.”

Fresh Market wasn’t the only business to come through, Crosby said. Duke’s Seafood, Days Smokehouse and Asahi Sushi and Grill also helped Live Oak serve three meals a day, and Crosby already had been gearing up the church’s normal food ministry in anticipation that some day a big need would arise.

“Those that were the most critical today are the most thankful,” he said.

Crosby, likewise, appreciates a friendship that has paid dividends to hundreds of people in need.

“That has been their life story,” Crosby said. “They give profusely and don’t expect anything back.”

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