From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
UMNS# 04522-United Methodists work toward long-term hurricane
Fri, 5 Nov 2004 16:54:57 -0600
United Methodists work toward long-term hurricane recovery
Nov. 5, 2004 News media contact: Linda Bloom * (646) 3693759* New
NOTE: Photographs and other related features are available at
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) - This year's hurricanes may no longer rate coverage on the
Weather Channel, but those affected by the storms are reminded daily of their
The Rev. Tom Hazelwood, domestic disaster coordinator for the United
Methodist Committee on Relief, said his agency has received funding requests
from United Methodist conferences in Florida, Alabama, Western North
Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. UMCOR also is assisting with recovery
work in the Caribbean.
How much assistance the agency can provide, especially for long-term
recovery, depends upon the donations that UMCOR receives, he told United
Methodist News Service.
As of early November, UMCOR reported, volunteers had invested more than a
million hours in recovery projects related to the recent hurricanes and
Hurricane Charley kicked off the storm season in mid-August, followed by
Hurricanes Frances, Ivan, Jeanne and other storms, named and unnamed. The
Federal Emergency Management Agency has labeled the 2004 Atlantic hurricane
season "one of the busiest and most destructive in history."
In Florida, up to 1,000 new volunteers have registered with the
denomination's storm recovery center there for work assignments over the next
year. Another focus is case management, and UMCOR is coordinating with the
United Methodist Florida Annual (regional) Conference to set up training
sessions and staffing.
"We are working very hard to get case management in place, whether it is
hired or volunteer - we're going to try to use a combination of the two,"
He pointed out that more middle-class families are seeking assistance in
Florida because the insurance deductibles there are so high. In some cases,
he added, homeowners must pay a different deductible for each storm.
The Church World Service Interfaith Trauma Response Team also has organized
"caring for the caregiver" workshops in central Florida. The United Methodist
Church of Pine Island hosted an October workshop.
Case management training is set for mid-November in the denomination's
Alabama-West Florida Conference, according to the Rev. John Edwards,
conference disaster relief coordinator. "We're looking to move into the
long-term recovery process in a bigger way."
At least four counties have organized long-term recovery committees, with
more assessment needed in rural, inland areas, he added.
Hazelwood noted that the recovery work in Alabama-West Florida would depend
partly upon the funds available and partly on how efforts are coordinated
with other denominations and relief groups. "We, as United Methodists, are
trying to see where we can plug in," he said.
In some areas, essential services are still being restored. Edwards, who
lives in Santa Rosa County and serves as pastor of Mount Carmel United
Methodist Church near Jay, Fla., and the state line, noted that he is among
those still without telephone service.
Housing remains a critical issue in the region. "FEMA is getting mobile homes
and travel trailers in as fast as the manufacturers can turn them out,"
Volunteer work teams for the Alabama-West Florida area currently are being
scheduled through summer of next year, "but we can always use more
volunteers," he added.
Huntingdon College, a United Methodist-related institution in Montgomery,
Ala., has adopted Oakcrest Elementary School in Pensacola, Fla., as a service
project for its First Year Experience program. The elementary school
sustained hurricane damage, and its students are among some of the many
thousands in Pensacola who lost homes or property.
Rains generated by the hurricanes hit Western North Carolina hard, according
to Hazelwood, and case management training is planned there in November.
"Several small communities were devastated by flooding and mudslides," he
Dawn Hand, the Western North Carolina Conference's director of
communications, said that United Methodists there expect at least a two-year
recovery period. "We are in the process of securing staff to work in Haywood
County, one of the areas that was heavily damaged," she added. United
Methodist volunteers also are working in cooperation with Baptists in Macon
About 300 to 400 homes need to be rebuilt in Haywood County, Hand said.
Volunteer teams are working there every week, and new teams are being
scheduled into next year.
In the Caribbean, a two-member UMCOR team recently visiting Haiti and Grenada
found an urgent need for food, home rebuilding and other reconstruction. The
agency already has been working with ecumenical partners on both islands on
cleanup, school rehabilitation and distribution of fresh water.
David Sadoo, UMCOR staff, and Margaret Stansberry, an aid consultant,
reported that mudslides and floods created by Tropical Storm Jeanne in Haiti
had "sheared off" roads, collapsed bridges, flattened homes and squashed
garden plots. The city of Gonaives - a cotton production center where 3,000
people were left dead or missing - has been plagued by violence and hunger.
The team recommended improving efforts to distribute food, health kits and
school supplies and increasing home construction in the area north of
In Grenada, Hurricane Ivan damaged 90 percent of the island's buildings.
Those buildings included community centers that provide libraries, day care
and shelters, offer training programs and serve as town hall settings.
Reconstruction of the centers, along with housing, is key, as is the
restoration of nutmeg farming, a chief source of income for Grenada.
Although Hurricane Ivan had been downgraded to a tropical storm when it hit
western Pennsylvania, major flooding still occurred in Pittsburgh and the
surrounding counties. The Rev. Rick Nelson, disaster response coordinator for
the United Methodist Western Pennsylvania Conference, said most of the
initial cleanup is completed, although some elderly residents who need
assistance are still being identified.
About 10 long-term recovery groups have been established in worst-affected
areas throughout the conference, according to Nelson, and casework managers
are being hired. As coordinator, he is helping organize, train and resource
Most flooded areas are in the "dry out" stage. "Very few, if any, in the
communities are ready to start rebuilding," he explained. But the conference
plans to start scheduling volunteer teams for when that phase begins.
Donations for UMCOR's hurricane assistance should be designated to Advance
No. 982410, "Hurricanes 2004." Checks can be dropped in church collection
plates or mailed directly to UMCOR at 475 Riverside Dr., Room 330, New York,
NY 10115. To donate by credit card, call (800) 554-8583, a toll-free number.
Online, donors can go to www.MethodistRelief.org, where a secure server
allows the donor to enter credit-card information.
UMCOR also continues to need flood buckets containing supplies that
volunteers use in post-hurricane cleanup. Go to
http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/print/kits for details.
Volunteers can contact United Methodist conference offices in the various
states for further information about setting up work team visits.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or
United Methodist News Service
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