Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Brethren continue work in Gulf Coast two years after Katrina.

On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast, Brethren Disaster Ministries continues rebuilding work in two locations in Louisiana, the towns of Chalmette and Pearl River. "We have been asked by the local recovery groups to stay at these two locations through 2008," reported coordinator Jane Yount. Brethren Disaster Ministries is a program of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

The other two Brethren rebuilding projects that were active this year, in the towns of Lucedale and McComb, Miss., are now closed. "We had a wonderful response for those projects, and much was accomplished," Yount said. "In Lucedale, over 800 volunteers assisted 87 families. In McComb, about 350 volunteers served 47 families."

The Children’s Disaster Ministries program of the Church of the Brethren also continues to provide a response in New Orleans, located at the Welcome Home Center for returning hurricane survivors (see story below). Plans are for the response to continue until mid-September when students go back to school.

A new DVD is available from the Brethren Disaster Ministries office, "The Presence of Christ: Brethren Disaster Ministries in the Gulf Coast," illustrating what is being accomplished with Hurricane Katrina recovery--and how much still needs to be done. "Every church member should view this DVD to find out what they can do to help Katrina survivors and why, after two years, this is still so important," said Yount. For a free copy, contact Brethren Disaster Ministries, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776; 800-451-4407;

The Christians of the United States have been faithful to the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort, according to a release today from the National Council of Churches (NCC). A survey of the 35 member communions in the NCC estimated those denominations and churches have sent a total of more than 120,000 volunteers to Gulf Coast areas affected by Katrina, donated 3.6 million hours in helping victims put their lives back together, and sent an estimated $250 million in financial aid to local churches and relief agencies. The survey was conducted by the NCC’s Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

"The task ahead is still a mammoth one. We need people to stay with us," said Bishop Thomas Hoyt, co-chair of the Special Commission and past president of the NCC, in the release. More volunteers are needed to help people struggling all along the Gulf Coast, Hoyt said.

The release also warned of a pending housing crisis related to the trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The temporary housing was designed for only 18 months to two years, the release said. In a related development, NCC’s Special Commission also has asked FEMA to investigate health risks associated with some of the trailers supplied to hurricane survivors, after reports that some contained toxic levels of formaldehyde.

Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers and project directors have been staying in trailers provided by FEMA at some rebuilding sites. The program has checked those trailers for obvious odor, and volunteers are not having symptoms of problems with formaldehyde, reported Roy Winter, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. "We addressed this some time ago," he reassured volunteers.

Brethren Disaster Ministries also has issued a renewed call for disaster volunteers to serve in the Gulf Coast. The program specifically needs volunteers to fill cancellations in the schedule at Pearl River the week of Sept. 9-15, and at Chalmette the week of Sept. 23-29. To volunteer, call Brethren Disaster Ministries at 800-451-4407 or contact a district disaster coordinator.

Yount also called for prayer for those affected by Hurricane Dean, which struck Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, as well as Mexico and Belize in mid-August. "We are now in the throes of hurricane season, with five named storms already," she reminded disaster responders.

Source: 08/29/2007 Newsline Extra

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