Malibu employee’s evacuee family relocates to L.A.

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Parents from Webster Elementary School pitch in to help school custodian Terry Boyd relocate his 11-member New Orleans family, who survived Hurricane Katrina, to Inglewood.

By Hans Laetz / Special to The Malibu Times

When word spread at the annual Malibu Chili Cook-off that a well-liked local school custodian had 11 family members stuck in New Orleans, some of them missing, it didn’t take long for plans to be made.

After all, Webster Elementary School custodian Terry Boyd is described as “just the nicest man on campus.” The daytime custodian, who has worked at the school for the past year, is one of those school staff who is a friend to everyone, and beloved by parents, teachers and students, said principal Phil Cott.

When Webster parents found out that Boyd’s family needed help, they came together and formed a plan to help.

“This is a guy on a day custodian’s salary with a family of his own, and here he’s on the cellphone trying to rent apartments and get his relatives out of a shelter” Cott recalled. “When word got out to the parents they just took over.”

“There’s probably enough red tape at a school that we couldn’t have a fundraiser and then hand the employee a check,” said Webster parent Dorothy Lucey. “It made sense to take it to the church, and at least half the congregation [of Malibu Presbyterian Church] knows Mr. Boyd.”

Parishioners quickly made Boyd’s family a project for the local church. They plan to help the relocated clan pay for apartments and living expenses.

“I’m just so blessed,” a tearful and smiling Boyd beamed between services at the bluff-top church Sunday. “I truly appreciate what they have done. It has made me a man.”

Boyd, who lives in a one-bedroom apartment in Inglewood and whose children are grown, is renting a pair of apartments there for his 11 relatives, ranging from his mother to his aunt to nieces to babies, who are in emergency shelters in Texas. As far as he knows, all the members of his extended clan who called New Orleans East home got out alive.

“I’ve heard from cousins I had forgotten we had, and they are all safe,” he said Sunday.

Like hundreds of thousands of other New Orleans residents, members of Boyd’s family have almost nothing with them and nothing to go back to for a long time.

“New Orleans East is where we lived, it is the deepest part behind the levees, surrounded by those big canals and it’s just gone,” Boyd said.

“Momma said she would stay until they thought it was time for her to leave, and when they announced it was time, she packed one bag and left,” he added.

Presbyterian Rev. Greg Hughes said the church could not pass up a lesson for its children. “We’ve been blessed, and we need to take care of our neighbors,” he said.

“I think that Webster kids, seeing you, will realize there’s a real person, a real family, in need,” church member Becky Keller told Boyd.

Down the road from the church, Pepperdine University has accepted 14 undergraduate students from Louisiana as emergency transfers, said spokesman Jerry Derloshon. “We have also taken in one law student.”

The school, its employees and students are also raising funds for a sister United Church of Christ college in Arkansas that is spearheading the delivery of 270,000 meals and water to a staging area near Baton Rouge.

Pepperdine employees are able to use payroll deductions to contribute directly to that effort, Derloshon said.

In addition, several hundred Pepperdine students went to visit hurricane evacuees at the Dream Center in Los Angeles to hand out gift cards for use in replacing personal belongings, Derloshon said.

At UCLA, 10 students from New Orleans’ renowned Tulane University’s law college have been given emergency admittance. A spokesman said they are being brought up to speed with the rest of the law classes, which started Aug. 22.

The UC and California State University system schools are offering free enrollment to hurricane-displaced students. But because most of UCLA is on the quarter system, classes begin Sept. 29 and hurricane-related enrollment figures are not yet compiled, a spokesman said.

About 50 current UCLA students with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi permanent addresses have been allowed to take emergency leave for up to one year to attend to their families, UCLA officials said.

As of Sept. 2, Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles had reached its capacity in admitting students displaced by Hurricane Katrina.