When disasters tear things apart, people rally in large numbers around those affected.
For victims of the March 2 tornados that killed 38 people in Indiana and Kentucky, assistance is coming from all directions. Within the UCC and across denominational and geographical parameters, relief efforts are steady and substantial.
"People have been giving through the UCC's One Great Hour of Sharing (OGHS), the Indiana-Kentucky Conference and the 2012 Severe Storms Appeal Fund," said MaryAnna Speller, disaster coordinator for the UCC Indiana-Kentucky Conference, reaffirming the UCC's commitment to serve as "one church."
The disaster has displaced 1,200 families in the two states, said Speller, adding that well over 5,000 claims have been made to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
"Two weeks ago, we began working with local volunteer work groups in Southern Illinois to assist with the clean-up process, where 171 UCC people were involved in the clean-up through ecumenical partnerships," said Phyllis Richards, program associate for the UCC's Global Sharing of Resources.
"Our ability to act as one church is easily seen in times of disaster," said Richards. "The UCC arrives soon after the disaster is out of the area, and we stay for the long term. We work with local and national agencies active in disaster response and support each UCC Conference in their disaster-response efforts. That includes ongoing training long before disasters arrive."
Speller said that in Kentucky, a large, diverse group is aiding residents. "Buddhists, Jewish groups, Muslim groups, Mennonites, Southern Baptists, Cooperative Baptists, Samaritan's Purse, Convoy of Hope, United Methodist Church, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, HOPE International, Hope Force International, AmeriCorps VISTA workers, Church of the Nazarene, Christian Appalachian Project and Seventh-day Adventists have all been helping," she said.
Due to current logistical challenges presented by storing, sorting and delivering emergency supplies such as clothing, water and food, Speller said the best gift for the tornado disaster continues to be money. The greatest need is for funding to purchase tarps, heavy work gloves, large garbage bags, sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm, said Speller.
"Please continue to think about times when you can join in a work group to help rebuild or repair homes in the summer and fall of 2012 and spring, summer and fall of 2013," she advised those wishing to help.
The UCC –– along with the Presbyterian Church (USA), Go International, and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee –– continues to assess the devastation's magnitude, said Speller.
"Long-term recovery groups are forming, she said. "There are at least two in Indiana, and there probably will be about 10 in Kentucky. I am working alone with three counties myself and assisting in another two."
For more information about UCC Disaster Ministries or to make a gift, please visit www.ucc.org/disaster/.