Churches form Alabama interfaith committee

They gathered last week with a mission: to set up a long-range disaster recovery program.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | CARBON HILL, Ala. | November 19, 2002



"I feel like we're chasing each other around in circles -- not knowing what each other's doing."

—Rev. Mike Carver


Clergy, local politicians, townspeople and volunteers gathered at the Church of God of Prophecy last week with a mission: to set up a long-range disaster recovery program.

The meeting, moderated by Gil Furst of Lutheran Disaster Response, also drew representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Small Business Administration and Church World Service (CWS).

By close of the meeting, local clergy had established a steering committee that would be responsible for a future interfaith effort to put the town back together.

Such a cooperative effort was definitely needed, said the Rev. Mike Carver, who also serves as the local representative of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).

"I feel like we're chasing each other around in circles -- not knowing what each other's doing," he said.

A volunteer from the Southern Baptist Convention echoed Carver's sentiments. Most people, he said, thought the Southern Baptists were just cooking meals in Carbon Hill. But they didn't realize people like him were also out in the field cleaning up debris.

"Folks, you don't want my cooking," he joked.

Lesli Remaly, the CWS representative, said her organization would help local churches band together and communicate effectively, so that the work of volunteers wouldn't be needlessly repeated.

And representatives from FEMA and the American Red Cross cautioned churches not to spend too much money early on in the recovery.

"I'm here and I've got money to spend," said the Red Cross representative. "Save your money until I've spent my money and FEMA has spent their money. Then you can spend your money."

Ken Skalitzky, the FEMA liaison, encouraged volunteer leaders to keep track of work hours since those hours can be used as credit toward overall federal funds given to the town.

Skalitzky said work hours were calculated at$15 an hour.

"Your work has value," he said. "So don't discount what you do. Keep track of that stuff."

Mayor James Richardson said municipal workers would continue to clear the street of debris until the job was done.

"We're hitting it street to street," he said. "We ain't leaving nobody out."

Most of all Richardson was pleased with the outpouring of volunteer help his town has received.

"We have been blessed with volunteers," he said. "We'll never be able to repay them."


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