[Update] United Church of Christ Gulf Coast Hurricane Recovery

February 16, 2006

As the United Church of Christ continues to respond to the destruction and human suffering caused by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma and the flooding that followed, a debt of gratitude is owed to UCC members and friends for your generosity. The UCC has received over $4.6 million to address the needs of people impacted by these storms. Recovery and rehabilitation on the Gulf Coast will take at least 5-10 years given the magnitude of this catastrophe.

The major role of the church in this disaster, as in all disasters, is long-term recovery. The UCC has trained Disaster Network Coordinators (volunteer network) and Church World Service (CWS) has staff who will work with devastated communities to organize and plan for identifying and meeting the "un-met" needs of their communities - to catch the folks who might otherwise fall through the cracks. The UCC promises to walk with disastered communities on the long, long road to restoration.

Relief and Recovery Phase - August 29 - February 15, 2006
Funds Disbursed thru 1/31/06

$25,000 Church World Service, (Hurricane Katrina) to support distribution of blankets, health kits, and deployment of Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons

$209,800 UCC South Central Conference to meet emergency needs; provide grants to UCC clergy families who have been displaced and lost homes & income sources; long term recovery disaster response coordination [two long term volunteers]. Additionally, Rev. Alan Coe has been called by the South Central Conference to coordinate disaster recovery and work camp groups in the New Orleans Association.

$110,000 Community of Faith Church of Houston (UCC/Disciple) - Amistad Resettlement Project, to assist in paying resettlement costs (two months housing; food and clothing allowance) for 78 evacuated families who have been identified to participate in long-term resettlement project.

$50,000 Church World Service - Relocation Program for Displaced Americans, relocation of families in various sites across U.S.

$15,000 UCC Southeast Conference to meet emergency needs; feeding evacuees in Atlanta through the Hosea Williams Feeding Program (at the request of Ambassador Andrew Young).

$20,000 UCC Back Bay Mission, Biloxi, Mississippi to re-establish mission site for emergency relief and long-term recovery and rebuilding.

$5,000 Purchase of two Iridium satellite phones and service for use by Back Bay Mission staff as long as normal land-line and cell phone communications are disrupted.

$40,000 UCC related Dillard University, New Orleans to repair damage to campus and restore operations.

$5,000 UCC related Olivet College, Michigan, to help cover costs of feeding and sheltering 18 evacuees.

$10,000 Farm Worker Association of Florida to assist migrant farm workers unemployed when the crops were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.

$53,800 Good Shepherd UCC, Metairie, Louisiana to prepare church building (repaired damages, remove mold) to serve as site for evacuee/returnee housing/hospitality and long-term mission trip base camp.

$10,500 Church World Service - (Hurricane Rita) to support distribution of blankets, health kits, and deployment of Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons.

$2,400 Back Bay Mission, support for WCM Volunteer to serve as mission trip coordinator (6 months).

$4,500 Plymouth Congregational UCC, Beaumont, TX (Hurricane Rita) to assist the community with relief and recovery needs.

$10,000 Old First Church, Springfield, MA - support for books for Gulf Coast schools (k-8); church is working with school districts to replace books through an ongoing book program.

$15,000 New York Disaster Interfaith Services - support for resettlement of evacuees in New York City.

$30,000 Louisiana Environmental Action Network to assist with direct relief efforts for residents - providing "Re-entry Protection Kits" that contain protective clothing and eyewear, gloves, biohazard bags, and particulate respirators, as well as more bleach, and hopefully, if we can find them in time, buckets and detergents.

$50,000 Into Afrika - Exodus Ministries - UCC Ministers for Racial, Social & Economic Justice ? to facilitate radio town hall meetings for the Diaspora to receive critical information and have a voice in plans for how to rebuild their communities.

$20,000 UCC South Central Conference- support for new church start in Baton Rouge, Louisiana ? Malcolm Richard, pastor.

$25,000 Disaster Recovery Services of George County, Mississippi - interfaith support to buy materials to repair and rebuild homes for persons who are under insured; or, have no insurance. Volunteer work groups will provide the labor.

Recovery and Rehabilitation Phase Part I March 1, 2006 to December 31, 2006 (projected funding)

$100,000 UCC National Disaster Ministries and Church World Service for work with partners in local communities on the technology-caused issues (environmental hazards) related to Hurricane Katrina

$500,000 Partnerships with local organizations for advocacy in relation to environment, affordable housing, re-entry assistance for residents, job re-training

$90,000 Support for recovery efforts of nine UCC congregations in New Orleans Association

$200,000 Church World Service to develop long term recovery organizations; spiritual care for persons affected directly and indirectly; care for the care-givers; support for local community organizations related to vulnerable populations

$1,000,000 Ecumenical home reconstruction program - Long Term Recovery and Interfaith Committees

The projects and funding amounts listed above are projections. This is a very fluid situation and we anticipate many opportunities to serve our sisters and brothers in need.

Highlights of recovery initiatives:

++February 2006: The work of repairing and rebuilding in George County, Mississippi has begun through the efforts of the Disaster Services Interfaith established to assist in recovery efforts. Volunteer work groups will provide the labor to repair homes of persons who are under insured, or who have no insurance. As soon as there is sufficient housing to accommodate additional volunteers, opportunities to serve will open to the UCC.

++January 2006: National Disaster Ministries working with Church World Service begins work with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network to form a partnership that will address the toxic materials issues in the New Orleans area. Many of the homes and neighborhoods are contaminated by toxins including benzine, mercury and lead. Safety issues for volunteers and for residents wanting to return home are being addressed through this partnership.

++ December 2005: National Disaster Ministries, working with the Justice and Witness Ministries, Washington, DC office released the following statement via the Justice and Peace Action Network asking members to contact their Senators.

"As the season of light and hope progresses to the culminating birth of the baby Jesus, who, along with his parents, found shelter in a stable because there was no room at the inn, thousands of families left homeless and jobless by hurricanes Katrina and Rita are still finding no room at the federal inn. In the three months since these natural disasters hit the gulf coast, Congress has not yet passed critical aid packages for those who lost everything in the deluge. However, there is hope, because now there is a new bi-partisan relief bill that could bring desperately needed aid to these struggling families: the Gulf Coast Recovery Act of 2005 (H.R. 4438).

"The Gulf Coast Recovery Act, which has been approved by the House committee that has jurisdiction over federal disaster programs, would extend federal disaster unemployment assistance (DUA) for families who run out of their limited 26 weeks of federal aid. The bill also requires an immediate increase in minimum DUA benefits from $98 per week to $135 per week, a modest, but significant increase. These, along with other provisions in the bill, will help ensure that those who continue to suffer will not be left out in the cold this winter. The Senate has a similar, though more limited version of this bill (S. 1777).

"If these bills do not pass before Congress recesses for the holidays, they will not be taken up again until late January. Congressman Dan Young of Alaska, the Republican chair of the House committee that just approved the bill, was quoted as saying that his aim is to have the measure enacted before the Congressional session ends. So, the immediate priority is to get the bill through the House so that the Senate can take it up before the holidays."

++ November 2005: UCC President and General Minister, The Reverend John Thomas led a spiritual retreat in Houston, TX. 45 clergy from the South Central Conference including staff from Back Bay Mission participated in this time of renewal.

++ November 2005: Volunteer work group opportunities in the New Orleans area begin. To learn more about this possibility check: http://www.ucc.org/ministries/volunteer/hurricane.htm. Housing for volunteer work groups is available at three New Orleans area churches.

++ October 2005: National Disaster Ministries, working with the Justice and Witness Ministries, Washington, DC office released the following statement via the Justice and Peace Action Network asking members to contact their Senators. "Keep Katrina Workers Safe: Thousands of disaster responders, workers and volunteers in the Gulf Coast areas affected by Hurricane Katrina remain inadequately protected against exposure to environmental health hazards. The flood waters were contaminated with an estimated eight million gallons of petroleum and the disaster area contains highly elevated levels of sewage, bacteria, lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, arsenic, benzene and pesticides. Yet, Sen. James Inhofe (OK) has proposed legislation to allow the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to temporarily relax or suspend its rules in the clean-up effort for 120 days."

++ October 2005: Worship and Education Team of Local Church Ministries developed Advent worship resources related to the Hurricanes which were posted on the UCC web site for use by congregations.

How you can help

1. Pray for the people who have been affected by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Wilma, and all disasters.

2. To help those affected by the Gulf Coast Hurricanes you may send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Hope Shall Bloom-UCC Hurricane Recovery Fund" with the request they are sent through your Conference office on to Wider Church Ministries.


3. Send gifts payable to Wider Church Ministries and marked in the memo portion "Hope Shall Bloom-UCC Hurricane Recovery" Fund to Wider Church Ministries; 700 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44115.


4. Make a secure on-line donation at: www.ucc.org

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