From the Worldwide Faith News archives

UMNS# 544-Creativity shaped New Jersey 9/11 response by Methodists

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Wed, 13 Sep 2006 16:14:42 -0500

Creativity shaped New Jersey 9/11 response by Methodists

Sep. 13, 2006 News media contact: Linda Bloom * (646) 3693759* New York {544}

NOTE: Additional stories, photos, video, audio and a logo for the series "9-11: Responding in Faith" can be found at

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) - United Methodists in New Jersey used creativity and a willingness to cross boundaries to assist residents in that state affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Rev. Christopher Miller -- who served as director of the Healing, Encouragement and Advocacy in Response to Tragedy unit of the denomination's Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference from July 1, 2002, to June 2005 -- said flexibility was crucial to the fact that most of their clients experienced financial recovery; some also experienced a spiritual and emotional recovery.

Recovery is defined as regaining self-sufficiency. "From my point of view, I thought it was extremely successful," Miller said. "We were definitely catching the people who fell through the cracks. We were supplying resources to people who had very few options for resources, if any."

The United Methodist Committee on Relief provided $4.5 million to the Greater New Jersey Conference for its response. The HEART program handled 522 cases and continued until June 30 of this year, making it one of the longest-running 9/11-related programs in the state.

Cooperative efforts

Innovations included collaborating with groups like the Red Cross, Salvation Army and Catholic Charities in ways that had not occurred before and using church-related case managers as contract case managers for major agencies that couldn't get funding as quickly for a client. "We were able to turn a check around, sometimes within hours," Miller said.

An example of this collaboration can be found in the HEART report for the period of July 1, 2004, to June 30, 2005. It stated that the Salvation Army in New Jersey "is particularly notable" for extending information, training, resources and peer support to staff at the United Methodist program.

"Additionally, the Salvation Army's programs for eligible clients and their willingness to collaborate on cases has minimized the risk of duplication of financial assistance and allowed the program to make the most of its service dollar," the report said.

Catherine Earl started with HEART as a supervisor and case manager in 2002 and then succeeded Miller as director. Earl called her service a highlight of her social work career. "The HEART unit was one of the most gratifying experiences I've ever had because of the creativity that was permitted case managers," she said.

Case managers were allowed to create a recovery plan "that targeted that person," rather than follow a set procedure, she explained.

Help for secondary victims

Many clients were not the visible victims of the terrorist attacks, and some were undocumented, according to Earl. "They were folks who were deployed in cleanup crews without protective equipment. Our clients who fall into that category are suffering from medical illness and lung disease."

Clients of the HEART program also included those in the middle class before the attacks who lost jobs and had few new employment opportunities. Trauma could affect their ability to perform well in a job interview. "In large part, there were really good resources for mental health in this area," she noted.

Miller, now pastor of First United Methodist Church in Delran, N.J., said a few clients who earned more than $100,000 a year "had to make very hard decisions" when they lost their jobs and couldn't pay large mortgages and private school tuitions.

He credited the United Methodist connectional system with providing "resources that other churches just didn't have" for their work.

The Rev. Ken Sloane, who helped craft the proposal that established the HEART program, said the Greater New Jersey Annual (regional) Conference became involved in outreach in a new way. HEART was always identified with the United Methodist Church, Sloane pointed out, making it clear that in a disaster, "United Methodists really have a commitment for the long-term recovery." Sloane recently joined the staff of United Methodist Communications.

The experience gained through the HEART program has already paid benefits, according to Earl, who now works for Katrina Aid Today, an assistance group led by UMCOR. She believes both the New York and New Jersey areas have responded to Hurricane Katrina "in a highly organized way" because of that experience.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or


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