Disaster recovery: Push is on for organized mission trips to Galveston

Disaster recovery: Push is on for organized mission trips to Galveston

August 16, 2009
Written by Staff Reports

Remember Hurricane Ike?  The UCC does.

In a shortsighted culture that too easily forgets yesterday's natural disasters, the UCC continues to emphasize its commitment to long-term disaster recovery.

"We're not the people who come from the outside community immediately," explains the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, executive for UCC Volunteer Ministries. "We are known for our commitment to working with long-term recovery committees and to helping with individual home rebuilding. We help specifically with volunteer labor and with the contributions that come to us through the One Great Hour of Sharing mission offering."

That's why beginning in October and continuing through mid-February 2010, local church mission groups are being called to come to Galveston, Texas, to offer spiritual accompaniment and carpentry skills for those still recovering from Hurricane Ike. 

Hurricane Ike, which devastated Galveston and surrounding communities in mid-September 2008, was the third most destructive hurricane ever to make landfall in the United States.

"Volunteers will be cooperating with the local community's long-term recovery committee. They will be working with the leadership of the local community," Blaufuss says.

An "Unmet Needs Table" has been organized in Galveston to assist individuals who are still trying to rebuild their lives and their homes. The table is a collaborative place where community organizations offer coordinated response for those individual cases where FEMA assistance or insurance dollars have run out, were inadequate or never existed. Participating groups will be led by several long-term UCC Partners in Service volunteers who will oversee multiple work camps in coordination with local officials.

"A lot of the commercial buildings and the more well-do-do residents have come back or have moved elsewhere, but many poorer residents don't have the resources to rebuild and they don't have the resources to move," Blaufuss says.

Mission teams are being sought anytime in October through mid-November or in mid-January through mid-February. Participants must be at least 14 years old, and teams must have at least one adult for every two youth participants.

"We want one in eight volunteers to be experienced in construction skills, and the more in a group who have those skills the better," says Blaufuss.

Groups of up to 24 individuals will be housed in dormitory facilities at First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Texas City, Texas.  Kitchen facilities, bunks and showers are provided, but volunteers are asked to bring their own bedding and to purchase their own groceries.

"We have been doing disaster recovery (for flooding) in Iowa and Indiana all summer, working with long-term disaster recovery committees there," Blaufuss says. "Now we're making a push for volunteers to go to Texas."

The Galveston mission trips are being organized jointly by UCC Volunteer Ministries, UCC National Disaster Ministries and the Office of Disciples Volunteering in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

For more information about organizing a mission trip, contact the Rev. Mary Schaller Blaufuss, executive for UCC Volunteer Ministries, at blaufusm@ucc.org or toll-free at 866-822-8224 ext. 3214.

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