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IN forms recovery committee

Help continues to pour in for tornado survivors in the Evansville, Ind., area as more than 15 groups formed the Southwest Indiana Long Term Recovery Committee.

BY HEATHER MOYER | EVANSVILLE, Ind. | November 15, 2005

The help continues to pour in for the tornado survivors in the Evansville, Ind., area as more than 15 groups came together Monday to form the Southwest Indiana Long Term Recovery Committee.

Representatives from many churches and community organizations gathered Monday to learn more about the long term recovery process and to form an organized response to the devastating tornado that ripped through the city almost two weeks ago.

The members of the committee made sure to point out that their goal is to aid the survivors and not their own particular agencies.

"We're not here to make money, we're here to make life better for the residents," said the Rev. Randy Anderson, disaster response coordinator for the Evansville district of the United Methodist Church. "The uninsured and underinsured will be our focus."

Anderson, who also pastors Centenary United Methodist Church north of Evansville, was named chair of the committee.

Monday's meeting also aimed to update the attending groups on the details of the recovery thus far. So far, more than 640 people have registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The FEMA representative in attendance also went through the process of registering for aid with the FEMA.

"This is important to know," said Kevin Cox, chair of Indiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (INVOAD). "Pastors are an important way to spread this information around."

Meeting attendees also shared information on such topics as how to help residents find a good contractor and how to make sure residents' mental and emotional health are addressed.

"You can build the buildings for families, but if you don't address the emotional needs then you haven't done all the long term recovery," said the Rev. David Mark Owens, a chaplain and member of the Indianapolis Crisis Assistance Response Team. Owens also made sure those in attendance knew that taking care of themselves was just as important.

The emotional aspect of the recovery is an issue some are already closely monitoring. Church services around the Evansville and Newburgh area Sunday included times where parishioners shared their experiences in the week since the tornado. At Newburgh United Methodist Church (NUMC), which is only several hundred feet from severely damaged homes and suffered roof damage itself, congregation members took turns sharing Sunday morning.

For NUMC pastor Rev. Mark Dicken, the time to share was an important way for people to cope, give thanks and just cry a little. Tears were shed as members talked about losing their homes or trying to find isolated family members. Others thanked the church and community for the support provided in the aftermath of the F3 tornado.

"God was in Newburgh last Sunday at 2 am, and he's here now," said the Rev. Mark Dicken.

Over at East Side Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Linda Parker is considering the long term mental impact of the tornado, too. "People are still in such shock," she explained. "Some might not be able to tell that they need help yet, but soon the post-traumatic stress will set in and they will have things to deal with. The survivor's guilt, anger and rage may not come out until later."

Through United Family Counseling Services (UFCS), a Disciples of Christ and United Church of Christ-run counseling organization of which Parker is a board member, Parker hopes to set up a counseling program specifically for tornado survivors.

"This is all still in the beginning phase, we want to get the word out so people know it's available," explained Parker. "It's available to children, too. We're encouraging people to get the support they need."

Through the newly-formed long term recovery committee, organizations like the UFCS are working together to offer their services to the tornado survivors. The hope is that a more organized response will allow agencies to not duplicate efforts and to get the word out about what is available to the survivors.

"The partnership as we move ahead is so important," said one meeting attendee.

Other organizations in attendance at Monday's meeting included the United Methodist Committee on Relief, Mennonite Disaster Service, Adventist Community Services, Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, the United Way and many more. Pastors from Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), United Church of Christ, and Catholic churches were also in attendance.


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