The UCC is responding to the immediate and long-term recovery efforts for those areas heavily damaged by September's Hurricane Isabel.
An initial gift of $10,000 from the UCC's Emergency USA, a special fund supported by the One Great Hour of Sharing special mission offering, has been given to support Church World Service's immediate response efforts. In addition, $3,000 was sent to the UCC's Southern Conference to assist with immediate relief needs, according to Florence Coppola of the UCC's National Disaster Ministries. An additional $50,000 is being sought from UCC members and friends in order to provide a greater response.
While the UCC is not considered a first responder, Coppola says, UCC churches in affected communities often find themselves in the role of providing relief to disaster victims who often do not qualify for assistance from secular agencies.
The Rev. Steve Camp, UCC Southern Conference Minister, says his Conference is still in the early stages of damage assessment. "We are now just beginning to get a real picture of the damage to our churches in the Southern Conference and also UCC families affected," he says, indicating that some churches and families were not insured or the damage was not covered by their insurance policies.
"At least 20 churches have varied reports of damage," says Coppola, "and more than two dozen families are struggling to piece together their lives in the aftermath of this storm." Both the United Church of Christ Insurance Board and Coppola's office are assisting those affected, she says.
"Reports in the aftermath of Hurricane Isabel continue to come into the national and Conference offices. At this point, we have learned that at least two churches in the New Bern, N.C., area have experienced significant water damage," Coppola says. "Hurricane Isabel is the worst in the Southern Conference's history.
This is only the beginning." The greatest destruction occurred in Eastern Virginia. Judye Thomas, the Southern Conference's disaster coordinator, says that at least 50 UCC families in the area have been directly affected.
The UCC is committed to participating in long-term recovery efforts, Coppola says. After the immediate crisis is over and short-term emergency needs for food, shelter and water have been met, many relief organizations will discontinue their programs. Unfortunately, she says, many families still lack insurance and the resources needed to get back on their feet. The UCC works with its Conferences and interfaith recovery groups to provide funding and volunteers, as appropriate, to support recovery long after news reports of the disaster's effects have ended.
UCC-supported Church World Service has deployed disaster response and recovery liaisons to the states affected by Hurricane Isabel. "We want people to know we're on site," says Linda Reed-Brown, associate director for domestic response for CWS's Emergency Response Program.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
1. Continue to pray for those who live in communities affected by hurricanes and flooding.
2. Send financial gifts to your UCC Conference office, marked "Emergency USA" in the memo portion. Include a note asking them to forward your gift to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources, UCC's Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115.
3. Send gifts payable to Wider Church Ministries, marked "Emergency USA" in the memo portion, to the Office for Global Sharing of Resources, UCC's Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115.