Ecumenical rebuilding effort receives volunteerism award

Ecumenical rebuilding effort receives volunteerism award

Church World Service project volunteers Jack Lloyd and Carl Gearhart of Christ Reformed UCC, Hagerstown, Md., and Gary Weddle of Meyersville, Md., work in a New Orleans-area home. Matt Cackworth | CWS photo.
Neighborhood: New Orleans, Rebuilding Homes, Reclaiming Hope, an ecumenical partnership of Church World Service, is the 2009 recipient of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster’s (VOAD) Innovative Program of the Year. The project was honored at an awards banquet during the annual National VOAD conference in Salt Lake City May 15.

More than 500 people from 27 U.S. states and Canada came to New Orleans as volunteers with one of the project partners: American Baptist Churches USA; Brethren Disaster Ministries; Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Christian Reformed World Relief Committee; Lutheran Disaster Response; Mennonite Disaster Service; Presbyterian Disaster Assistance; Reformed Church in America; United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

Florence Coppola, the UCC’s Executive for National Disaster Ministries, conceived of the idea and worked with CWS to promote the project.

CWS brought the agencies together to work with the Crescent Alliance Recovery Effort, the long-term recovery agency in Orleans Parish. A long-time CWS partner in its own right, CARE helped CWS and the partners select Little Woods as the focus neighborhood, and the homeowners who would be included in the project.

“We visited a number of areas but once we saw Little Woods, it was unanimous,” said Bonnie Vollmering, CWS associate director for domestic emergency response. “We knew we had work to do there.”

Project organizers recognize that 12 homes are only a fraction of the work to be done in restoring New Orleans, and all along the Gulf Coast. But the expectation of participating groups is that concentrated progress will bring hope to the entire neighborhood.

The 17th annual National VOAD conference brought over 400 emergency management and disaster response personnel to Salt Lake City during the week of May 18. The conference provided opportunities for continuing education, community service and networking for a wide range of service agencies and professionals.

In addition to recognition of their efforts by Utah government officials, 1,000 hygiene kits and clean-up buckets were assembled during a service project incorporated into the conference to benefit Salt Lake City community-based organizations.

National VOAD is the coordinating body for every major community-based and faith-based disaster response organization, including the American Red Cross, LDS Charities, The Salvation Army and Feeding America. The member organizations of National VOAD focus on all stages of disaster: preparedness, relief, response, recovery and mitigation. Working collaboratively, the members of National VOAD are the driving force behind disaster recovery in the United States.

View a photo gallery of the New Orleans reclamation project, hosted by UCC volunteer the Rev. Barbara Kershner Daniel at http://churchworldservice.org/gallery/neworleans09 

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