From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UMCOR grant targets 9-11 victims in Virginia

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 23 Jan 2003 13:53:23 -0600

Jan. 23, 2003  News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212)870-38037New York

By United Methodist News Service

Some of the hidden victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks can be
found along the Route One Corridor just south of Washington.

They were the minimum-wage earners who cleaned the motel rooms, served food
in the restaurants, worked in the shops catering to tourists at Mount Vernon
and other attractions or drove taxis to nearby Reagan National Airport. After
the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York, the
airport closed for an extended period, re-opening on a limited basis, and the
tourist trade dropped dramatically, taking jobs with it.

Rising Hope United Methodist Church, established in 1996 specifically to
bring "spiritual and material relief" to the needy along the Route One
Corridor, has offered help to those secondary victims. About 60 percent of
its current 90 members are homeless or have been homeless at some point.

"Almost immediately, we knew that this (Sept. 11) was going to have an
effect, particularly on the community we serve," the Rev. Keary Kincannon,
told United Methodist News Service. What they didn't realize until later, he
said, was how the attack on the Pentagon would contribute to a broader
economic downturn. "There are still people coming in who relate to us that
they haven't been able to find work since 9-11."

With financial assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief,
Rising Hope and other churches and programs in Northern Virginia can continue
to respond to those seeking help.

On Jan. 4, the United Methodist Church in Northern Virginia formally
announced that it was receiving nearly $1 million from UMCOR's "Love in the
Midst of Tragedy" fund, set up as a way for church members to respond to the
Sept. 11 attacks. UMCOR's board of directors had approved the grant in

The Rev. Abi Foerster of the church's Alexandria District, and the Rev. Herb
Brynildson, Arlington District, wrote the grant application. The two
districts serve 104 churches in Northern Virginia and a regional population
of almost 2 million people.

Coordinating with the interfaith office of the Fairfax County government, "we
worked together in trying to bring all the necessary parties to the table,"
Foerster explained. The county was instrumental in assisting with statistics
and documentation for the grant, she added.

It was not hard to find secondary victims among the service industry workers
of the Route One Corridor. "Eighty percent of the businesses in our area are
small businesses," Foerster said. "Most of the folks either lost their jobs
... or had a serious cut in hours."

In addition, many of the workers were immigrants who "were experiencing a
fair amount of discrimination and bias."

Six organizations will receive funding from the grant, to be allocated over a
three-year period. The largest amount, $383,400, goes to Grace Ministries, a
community outreach program of the church's Arlington District aimed at the
Hispanic community. Its focus will be on monthly food and clothing
distribution, rent assistance, job training and re-training, worship in
Spanish and pastoral counseling.

The second largest allocation, $251,562, is to Rising Hope, where Laura
Derby, church administrator and grant writer, noted that the number of
homeless along the Route One Corridor - many living in the woods or in their
cars - has jumped by 25 percent in the past four years.

"Since 9-11, that's gotten even worse," she said. The number of families
coming in each week for food and clothing has increased significantly in the
past few months, she added.

At the same time, Rising Hope has experienced a drastic reduction in food
contributions. The UMCOR money will allow the church to purchase food when
necessary, as well as hire a part-time employee to investigate and coordinate
donations from food banks and other donors and recruit volunteers.

Funds also will allow Rising Hope to deal with specific client needs, Derby
said, such as getting someone into the mental health system or into job
training, providing needed transportation or paying for a utility bill or
month's rent.

Another result of the Sept. 11 aftermath, the growing need for legal
assistance to immigrants, is being addressed through the Northern Virginia
Board of Missions/Immigration and Legal Services Task Force, a joint effort
of the Arlington and Alexandria districts. Its grant of $162,000 will be used
to provide legal counseling and representation through the Just Neighbors
Ministry program.

A comprehensive post-Sept. 11 survey of immigrants along Route One showed a
need for additional English-as-a-second-language classes. ESL & Immigrant
Ministries, a program that provides English classes to low-income immigrants,
will receive $94,230 for its work. Currently, the program has more than 300
volunteers teaching classes at 19 United Methodist churches in Northern

Two other organizations also benefit from the UMCOR grant. B-District
Hispanic Ministries, a subgroup of the Virginia Annual Conference Hispanic
Task Force, will use its $48,600 allocation to provide food, medical and rent
assistance to Hispanic immigrants in need. Route One Neighborhood Shalom
Organization/Phoenix Rising will receive $33,400 for its weekend food

Foerster also works with Phoenix Rising, which was created in 2001 to address
the lack of food services on weekends, when traditional community kitchens
and food programs are closed. Three months after the organization's
volunteers began delivering nutritious bagged meals to homeless people living
along Route One, the Sept. 11 attacks occurred. Soon after, she said, the
number of deliveries jumped from 50 to 120, and recipients also began asking
for assistance in other ways.

UMCOR money will be used to purchase food to help supplement current
donations to Phoenix Rising, to provide indigent families with printed
materials about the county's social services and to offer opportunities for
one-on-one case management support.

# # #

United Methodist News Service
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