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TX making long-term recovery

"Most people they don't realize that Texas had three floods and several tornadoes."

BY TRAVIS DUNN | BALTIMORE | June 2, 2003


"The volunteer response is down for every denomination right now."

—Jean Peercy


Dale and Jean Peercy have been on the road for six and a half years, living out of their RV. They have three grown children (ages 30, 25 and 21) as well as two grandchildren, none of whom accompany them on their cross-country treks. Although their permanent residence if it can be called that is "somewhere in Ohio," the Peercys spend only about a month there every year.

The rest of the time they are working for Lutheran Disaster Response.

Their assignment: arrive at a disaster area six months after the fact, and help get the long-term recovery efforts in gear. Once this process is underway, and under the supervision of a local interfaith group, the Peercys, who each have an extensive work history in the construction business, bring in volunteers to rebuild damaged and destroyed homes.

Since September 2001, the Peercys have been working in Texas. They started out providing relief to survivors of Hurricane Allison. Now they are based in central Texas, working on homes damaged by flooding from last summer and fall.

"Last year was quite the year for disaster," Jean Peercy said. "Most people they don't realize that Texas had three floods and several tornadoes."

In some places, the Peercys are instrumental in setting up new interfaith recovery groups. In other places, they work with existing agencies.

In central Texas, they have been working with an existing interfaith group, the Kerr Interfaith Disaster Recovery, or KIDR. They have completed 20 projects so far in Kerr, Medina and Bandera counties and have another 12 to go.

Drumming up volunteers, however, has been difficult lately, the Peercys said a phenomenon that they say has become more pronounced since Sept. 11, 2002, and the cause of which they directly attribute directly to Sept. 11.

"I think a lot of people tend to stick a little closer to home on missions and not travel as much," Dale said.

In the last seven months, the Peercys have pulled together about 70 volunteers.

"It's way down. The volunteer response is down for every denomination right now, " Jean said. "In that period of time we should have had at least double that number."

"It's really unusual at this time of year," Dale said. "We're usually booked solid."

This is a problem the Peercys hope they don't encounter when they move on to their next job in Robstown, a small town 20 miles east of downtown Corpus Christi.

The unmet needs in this area are significant, said the Rev. Don Snyder, pastor of the Grace United Methodist Church in Corpus Christi, as well as the president of the Interfaith of the Coastal Bend.

Snyder said a team from the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) just completed an assessment of damage caused by tornadoes and floods last fall. The team found 130 cases, at least 70 of which are in Robstown.

The CRWRC report estimated that, with adequate volunteer labor, about $200,000 in funding would be needed.

While the United Methodist Committee on Relief has provided a grant of $30,000, and local Presbyterian churches gave another $10,000, Snyder said his interfaith group is a long way from that goal.

Snyder starts interviewing candidates tomorrow for a full-time director position for this interfaith. This new director will sign on for a year, and be in charge of hunting down more grant money.

The Peercys, however, aren't too concerned about the decline in volunteerism, or the current scarcity of funds. They are making occasional two-day excursions to the Corpus Christi area, and checking out the homes they will soon be working on.

On June 11, they plan to move their RV and work trailer to Robsville, and settle into their new assignment. They are confident that they will find the physical and financial support they need in order to complete the job.

"Your faith takes over from there," Jean said, "because God will provide."


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