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Giving to the UCC's Haiti earthquake response is shattering previous online giving rates, indicating a generous outpouring from across the United Church of Christ, church leaders say.
Within six days of the disaster, a total of $250,603 has been received from 2,366 online donors. That far exceeds a previous online giving record set in early 2005 when $112,000 was raised at ucc.org over 23 days from a little more than 1,000 donors to aid victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami.
"It's no surprise that UCC people are being very generous in reaching out to our sisters and brothers in Haiti," says Susan M. Sanders, the UCC's minister for global sharing of resources. "But this unprecedented outpouring also shows that people are remembering to give through the UCC in times of disaster, and demonstrates that we are getting more comfortable with offering our gifts through online methods."
The UCC's online tally has more than doubled during the past 72 hours, and Sanders expects giving to remain strong for several days, if not weeks.
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The totals, at this point, do not account for off-line — or mailed in — gifts, which are just starting to arrive at the UCC's Church House in Cleveland. "Just this morning, we received a call from the Financial Development office asking for our assistance with opening the mail, because the response has been so great," Sanders says.
Sanders also has heard accounts of incredible generosity among local churches. "I'm just now starting to get reports of congregational offerings, and they appear to be very, very strong," she says.
Trinity UCC in Chicago received $90,000 in special Haiti offerings taken at the congregation's three services on January 18. Peace Congregational UCC in Clemson, S.C., a small new church start in the UCC's Southeast Conference, gave its entire $700 weekend offering to support Haiti relief.
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UCC funds are already flowing to mission partners in Haiti, including support for relief kits organized by Church World Service and funds for medicine and supplies for area clinics provided by Interchurch Medical Assistance. Funds have also been shared with Global Ministries for support of partners, the National Spiritual Council of Churches of Haiti (CONASPEH) and House of Hope. Additional distributions are being made as relief and recovery efforts continue.
"Our first task is to pray, then to donate to relief efforts already underway," Sanders told United Church News last week. In response to the many who have inquired about volunteer opportunities in Haiti, Sanders recommends, at this point, a financial contribution to the Haiti Earthquake Relief Fund or volunteering in rebuilding efforts still underway in New Orleans.
"The logistics of getting into Haiti and finding an effective relief activity are very difficult," Sanders says. "World governments, humanitarian agencies and mission groups already stationed in Haiti are responding to needs as quickly as possible, and managing volunteers would only add to the complexity of their efforts."
Sanders reminds UCC supporters that while the church responds immediately at times of natural disasters, its commitment to recovery and rebuilding is long-term. "The UCC will be working in Haiti for many years to come, long after the media spotlight has turned elsewhere," she says.
Secure online gifts can be made here.