UCC prepares for a 'long-term response'
Agricultural damages in the wake of Hurricane Frances could have serious immediate and long-term effects, especially on migrant workers and low-income families who depend on citrus and other crops for their living. Some agriculture officials said industry damage from Frances could be worse than that of Hurricane Charley, which struck three weeks before Frances.
Three major dairy processing plants in north-central Florida are shut down. Initial reports from the Indian River area of central Florida indicate damage to the citrus industry's facilities, such as fruit storage sheds and other structures. Early assessments indicate that most grapefruit trees appear to have survived, but with substantial loss of the fruit crop.
Farm workers whose homes were damaged or lost in the hurricanes could face losing their jobs too.
Meanwhile faith-based groups, including the UCC's disaster response ministry, were engaged in relief operations started in the wake of Hurricane Charley. These operations have been expanding to encompass new needs brought on by Frances.
"We are in the midst of continuing to establish volunteer work group hospitality and deployment centers at five locations," said Bill Wealand of the UCC disaster response team in Florida. "We are getting set for the long-term response to unmet needs and expect to be at this for at least the next three years."
"We will host and deploy volunteer groups from other parts of the country to stretch our donated dollars as far as possible, using the dollars only to buy building materials," he said.
UCC-supported Church World Service teams also were investigating damaged church properties and assessing needs of people potentially isolated from federal and voluntary services.
At least two UCC congregations, Pilgrim UCC in Port Charlotte, Fla., and Congregational UCC in Punta Gorda, Fla., were damaged significantly by Hurricane Charley, reports Florence Coppola of the UCC's National Disaster Ministries in Cleveland.
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To help those affected
Individuals or congregations can send financial gifts through their UCC Conference offices. Just ask them to forward gifts to the UCC's Office for Global Sharing of Resources, Wider Church Ministries, 700 Prospect Ave., Cleveland, OH 44115.
Individual gifts also can be mailed directly to the address above. Note "Emergency USA" in the memo portion of your check.
Secure on-line donations to "Emergency USA" can be made at ucc.org/disaster. Click on "OGHS contribute."