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‘Huge need’ from 2008 hurricanes

Volunteers, donations needed to help rebuild lives shattered by last year’s hurricanes.

BY ZACHARY HOFFMAN | BALTIMORE | August 12, 2009


"The need is huge. We are running at capacity with families waiting to be helped."

—Rev. Tom Hazelwood, United Methodist Committee on Relief


Nearly a year later, volunteers and disaster response organizations are working to help rebuild lives shattered when Hurricanes Gustav and Ike tore through the Caribbean to make landfall on the Gulf Coasts of Louisiana and Texas as consecutive category two hurricanes.

“The need is huge,” said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood for the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “We are running at capacity with families waiting to be helped.”

UMCOR has been sending 300 to 400 volunteers every week to areas stretching from Galveston to Beaumont, Texas, and to sites in Louisiana. They are providing resources for needs and conducting case management for more than 300 clients in Louisiana alone.

Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response (LSSDR) is also heavily involved with case management, serving 16 counties of southeast Texas through a program called RISE (Recovery for Ike Survivors Enterprise).

RISE was given grant funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in June of this year to provide free disaster case management services to more than 13,000 survivors of Hurricane Ike.

“This program puts 250 caseworkers on the ground… over the next year to help them (survivors) sort out what their needs are and to develop a realistic, achievable recovery plan,” said Mark Minick, senior vice president of external relations for Lutheran Social Services. “The caseworkers partner with disaster survivors to help them work through that recovery plan, navigate bureaucracies and access available resources.”

Katherine Kerr, vice president of public relations for LSSDR, said, “We’re not handing out checks. We are figuring out needs, assessing needs and trying to gather resources to meet those needs.”

LDSSR and UMCOR are not alone in the long-term recovery efforts; other faith-based organizations are still working with communities to rebuild.

Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has volunteer villages in Texas and Louisiana, according to John Robinson of PDA.

PDA has a five to six year backlog of homes in need of repair in Galveston, Texas, and several hundred homes left to repair in other parts of Texas and Louisiana, according to Richard Maag, missions coordinator for Presbyterian Church USA.

There are 200 local Presbyterian churches involved in raising funds and volunteers are coming in from around the country to provide labor for the rebuilds, he explained, adding, "that is not the total that needs to be repaired, that is the total caught by our case-management."

In Port Arthur, Texas, the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC) has been literally working from the ground up by installing new floors and repairing ceilings for homes.

Their site is set to reopen on September 19, said Becky Purdom of CRWRC.

Hurricane Gustav wreaked havoc in Jamaica and Cuba as a category four hurricane before landing near Cocodrie, Louisiana, on September 1, 2008. Ike followed suit, this time crossing the Bahamas and Cuba as a category four, then landing at Galveston Island, Texas, just 12 days after Gustav, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

Hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars in damages were sustained in the Caribbean and United States as a result of the two storms, damage still being felt by communities along the Gulf.


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