Case Management: Offering Comfort, Care and Counsel

Mark Lambert
July 07, 2021

From Youth Ministry to Storm Recovery, Couple Does God’s Work as a Team

Julie and Tim Lafosse had a good deal going in Pineville.

Julie was the Director of Student Ministries at First United Methodist Church, Pineville, and Tim was happily working as a home renovator.

“Because of my job, being self-employed, I was able to work beside Julie with the church,” Tim said. “Whatever youth missions she did, I was able to tag along.”

But as the years rolled on, both sensed they needed a change more conducive to where they were in life.

“I mean, I was 53 years old and sleeping on the floor with teenagers,” Julie said.

Tim, who is nine years older than Julie, agreed that “after chasing teenagers for 20 years, you know, you reach that point where you want a king-size bed.”

Meanwhile, Rev. Elaine Burleigh, director of the Office of Missional Engagement and Outreach, was looking for a disaster case manager to help ramp up the recovery effort from Hurricanes Laura and Delta in southwest Louisiana. Ideally, Elaine needed someone with good people skills who could juggle several projects and already was familiar with the operations of the United Methodist Church, specifically the Louisiana Conference.

Elaine’s search led her to Julie, who was ready for a new challenge and had a two-for-one offer. Elaine got a package deal with Julie and Tim both hired on as managers, and the couple found a great solution to their desire to continue their ministry work in a different capacity.

“This is the first time we’ve worked together – it’s been wonderful,” Julie said. “We’ve been married 34 years in August. It’s been great, it really has.”

As disaster case managers, Julie and Tim establish contact with people who are still trying to recover from last summer's hurricanes. Case managers help the survivors, or clients, find resources to stretch their FEMA and insurance money as far as possible to repair their homes. Case managers don’t gut homes or repair roofs – they make sure the clients are getting every penny available to them through public and private sources.

“Most people I’m dealing with don’t realize they can appeal their insurance decisions,” Julie said. “If we have, say, an elderly person who is not computer proficient, we’ll jump in the car and take the paperwork to them, take pictures of the damage they’re still dealing with and write appeals for them if needed.”

Although Julie and Tim work out of their home in Carencro, each maintains a separate home-office space (Tim: “We’re just down the hall from each other.”) and a separate list of clients. Julie is the computer whiz while Tim is more comfortable finding rebuilding resources “to get their homes back to new or as close to new as they can be.

“When they explain the condition their house is in, I can visualize it, I know what they’re talking about,” Tim said. “I’ve seen it, I’ve worked on the kind of repairs they’re describing.”

But, because their skill sets are different, they wind up helping each other with questions that pop up.
This is not just fixing a house. It’s holistic.
Julie Lafosse

“Julie and I work good together. She may have questions that I can answer. She’s more techy than I am, so I have more questions for her.”

But the job of a case manager isn’t just computer screens, insurance forms, and red tape. Julie, Tim, and the other case managers in the Louisiana Conference are dealing with real people who’ve been through a horrific experience.

“That first part of the phone call, when you first contact them, you can hear the anger coming through,” Julie said. “They have utter disappointment in the system. Some of them just don’t believe anyone can help them at this point. But, hopefully, the light of Christ shines through that phone call.”

One day, Julie called a new client to introduce herself and ask where the client was in the rebuilding process. She got an earful.

The client, a Lake Charles woman, had evacuated to Baton Rouge with her small children and brother because of Hurricane Laura. Her mother was in the hospital with cancer and could not leave.

Soon after the woman, her children and brother evacuated to Baton Rouge, her mother died, Julie said.

“Now she’s in a rental in Baton Rouge, and she had to spend her FEMA money to take care of her mother’s body,” Julie said. “And, you know, she’s just so thankful someone would call her and have a conversation with her. You hang up the phone after that conversation, and you have to have your own time.”

Moments like that are made easier when your spouse is just down the hall.

“We talk all the time about the clients, over dinner, at night. This is not the kind of ministry that stops at 5 o’clock,” Tim said. “It doesn’t stop when you shut off the computer. Julie and I are still in conversation about these clients well into the evening.”

Julie agrees.

“This is not a news story: These are real people living through this. I’m definitely not a counselor, but I can offer comfort,” Julie said. “And, just to hear them say, ‘Thank you, I didn’t think anybody cared.’ This is not just fixing a house. It’s holistic.”
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