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Hurricane Rita roars on shore, UCC expands response to Gulf Coast Hurricanes

September 24, 2005

Hurricane Rita blasted ashore causing major flooding and triggering fires. These powerful storms have left a path of immense death and destruction in their wake along the Gulf Coast from southern Florida to east Texas.

Hurricane Rita blasted ashore at Sabine Pass along the Texas/Louisiana border early this morning, just four weeks shy of the landfall of catastrophic Hurricane Katrina, causing major flooding and triggering fires. These powerful storms have left a path of immense death and destruction in their wake along the Gulf Coast from southern Florida to east Texas. Residents of the affected states have evacuated ? some twice ? and are dispersed across 43 U.S. states.

It is too early to know the specific needs which will arise as an outcome of Hurricane Rita. Joann Hale, UCC member and Church World Service Disaster Response Recovery Liaison, is being deployed to the region to begin assessment and work with leaders of the faith community to organize their response. UCC National Disaster Ministries staff is monitoring the situation and are in contact with staff of UCC South Central Conference and the Church World Service Emergency Response Program.

UCC response to Hurricane Rita will be incorporated into the work begun following Hurricane Katrina (see update below) under the umbrella of the Hope Shall Bloom ? UCC Hurricane Recovery.

How you can help

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

2. To help those affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina you may send gifts payable to your congregation marked for "Hope Shall Bloom-UCC Hurricane Recovery Fund" with the request they be 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 now by clicking on the donation button on this page.

5. Participate in the Covenant of Compassion

Listed below is a status report on Hope Shall Bloom - UCC Hurricane Recovery response as of September 24, 2005.


Hurricane Katrina devastated a 90,000 sq. mile region of the U.S. Gulf Coast and displaced more than 1 million persons. Some 750,000 displaced persons have dispersed throughout the country and 43 states are now eligible for Federal assistance to help meet their needs. More than 200,000 people throughout the affected region have lost their jobs.

Trauma for those directly and indirectly distressed by this hurricane will have far-reaching consequences for not only the survivors, but also untold thousands of relief/ rescue personnel and sheltering/case management care-givers will expose themselves physically, psychologically and spiritually to the grief, frustration and hopelessness of the survivors as they seek to rebuild their lives.

United Church of Christ Congregations and Institutions

Nine New Orleans area congregations, Dillard University and Back Bay Mission, Biloxi, Mississippi have all been significantly impacted by Hurricane Katrina, including evacuations of members, staff and students, plus damage to physical structures. Information received so far:

First Trinity Evangelical, Metairie, Paul Pic, pastor, evacuated to Michigan, church building believed undamaged, church office in separate building flooded to 7 ft.

Good Shepherd, Metairie, Gary Arndt, pastor, steeple blown off church building, 3-4 inches of water in building, significant mildew, repairs begun, worship services scheduled to resume Sunday, September 24. Good Shepherd will serve as hospitality/ housing site for persons returning to New Orleans and for UCC mission trip groups.

Beecher Memorial Congregational, New Orleans ? Bernadette Terrell, Moderator, believed church building significantly flooded

Bethel UCC, New Orleans, Gary Nolan, pastor, location unknown; church building believed to be flooded.

Central Congregational, New Orleans, Wilbur Brown, pastor, evacuated to west Texas ? expect 2-3 ft. water in church building basement, parsonage flooded to 5 ft., New Orleans East and Ponchartrain Park neighborhoods, where many members reside, inundated with 8 ft. of water.

St. Matthew, New Orleans, Fred Meade, pastor, evacuated to Slumber Falls Camp, New Braunfels, Texas planned to return to New Orleans 9/22; from eye witness accounts, appears to be no damage to church building.

St. Paul, New Orleans, Lynn Hyder, pastor; church building sits on high ground, damages unknown.

Salem UCC, Malcolm Richard, pastor ? lives in Baton Rouge, church building sustained roof damage and leeks in vestibule, no flooding.

Little Farms, River Ridge, Jim Hightower, pastor ? glass panels and some windows blew in, metal roof rolled off, flat roof remains, and ceiling tile all wet, sanctuary survived pretty well, electricity and potable water available.

UCC related Dillard University, New Orleans ?Dr. Marveling Hughes, President, campus flooded, three buildings burned, students and faculty evacuated. Dillard is a member of the United Church of Christ Council for Higher Education. The Council is coordinating efforts with Dillard to open other UCC schools to Dillard's Students. Current information from Dillard may be found on their web site:

Back Bay Mission, a UCC community ministry in Biloxi, Mississippi ? Shari Prestemon, Executive Director, buildings significantly flooded, all contents destroyed, staff returning, half have lost homes. Back Bay Mission is making every effort to get up and running to provide relief to the Biloxi community and participate in the rebuilding of compassionate ministries along the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Current information from Back Bay may be found on their web site:


UCC National Disaster Ministries staff has been in regular contact with South Central Conference Staff and pastors, UCC Disaster Network Coordinators and Church World Service Emergency Response Program staff since the weekend of August 27 when it became evident Hurricane Katrina had the potential to be catastrophic.

Church World Service has deployed 10 Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons to the affected areas 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. As of September 23, shipped $1.2 million in material assistance to affected areas; 4,670 CWS Blankets; 60,285 Health Kits; 6,360 School Kits; 808 Kids Kits; 3,675 Emergency Cleanup Buckets; 20 IMA Medicine Boxes and 17 UNICEF Recreational Kits.

CWS Immigration and Refugee Program is supporting services to evacuees in 10 states through its CWS affiliate network. UCC congregations are encouraged to get involved. Contact information will be posted on Monday, September 25.

Florence Coppola, Executive for UCC National Disaster Ministries and Susan Sanders, One Great Hour of Sharing Administrator, visited the UCC South Central Conference September 15-18, meeting with clergy and lay leaders, the Conference Board of Directors, Back Bay Mission Executive Committee and evacuees to extend the love and support of the wider United Church of Christ, witness the extravagant hospitality of the Conference and plan for rebuilding a significant UCC presence along the disastered Gulf Coast.

Houston area and other United Church of Christ congregations in Texas have reached out to evacuees by providing meals, shelter, material goods, spiritual support and the reassurance of God?s comforting love. UCC Slumber Falls Camp has provided refuge for an extended family of 50 persons from New Orleans as well as sanctuary for UCC families. Indeed, UCC members, congregations, Associations, Conferences, and related institutions across the country are reaching out in support of their sisters and brothers in need. Please send an e-mail to Susan Sanders at to share stories of engagement in this disaster response.

Offers have poured in from UCC members offering to provide housing and serve as volunteers where needed. The Global Sharing of Resources team is collecting these offers and sharing information as it becomes available. Get on the list by sending an e-mail to

The Pension Boards of the UCC is providing relief to non-retired health plan members living in the FEMA designated disaster areas by waiving 4th Quarter 2005 and 1st Quarter 2006 premium payments. For details see:

UCC leaders announced September 6 that its members and congregations will need to raise at least $3 million to support long-term hurricane relief, recovery and rehabilitation phases of this disaster. Over $400,000 has been received as of September 24, 2005.

The major role of the church in this disaster, as in all disasters, is long-term recovery. The UCC promises to walk with disastered communities on the long, long road to restoration. A 5-10 year response is projected based on past experience and the magnitude of this catastrophe.

100% of gifts made to the Hope Shall Bloom ? UCC Hurricane Recovery Fund goes to support hurricane recovery programming. This is possible because church member?s gifts to Our Church?s Wider Mission basic support provide for the infrastructure necessary to make the UCC disaster response possible.

One Great Hour of Sharing and Hope Shall Bloom-UCC Hurricane Recovery funds have been distributed as follows as of September 24:

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

$15,000 UCC South Central Conference to meet emergency needs; provide grants to UCC clergy families who have been displaced and lost homes & income sources

$60,000 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

$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

$5,000 UCC related Dillard University, New Orleans to repair damage to campus

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

$10,000 UCC National Disaster Ministries and Church World Service for research, production and dissemination of environmental hazards/protection information related to Hurricane Katrina

$(amount pending) UCC South Central Conference, Good Shepherd UCC, Metairie, Louisiana to prepare church building to serve as site for returnee housing/hospitality and long-term mission trip base camp

Recovery Phase - October 1 ? December 31, 2005 (projected funding)

$100,000 Church World Service ? Relocation Program for Displaced Americans, relocation of 165 families in various sites across U.S.

$100,000 Church World Service - Spiritual Care for Caregivers

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

$15,000 Back Bay Mission, support for WCM Volunteer to serve as mission trip coordinator (12 months)

$30,000 UCC South Central Conference, support for two WCM Volunteers to serve as hurricane recovery coordinators (12 months)

Rehabilitation Phase - January 1, 2006 ? ? (projected funding)

$500,000 UCC Back Bay Mission/UCC National Disaster & Volunteer Ministries ? Home reconstruction program

$500,000 Ecumenical Home reconstruction program

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

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