Friday, June 13, 2008

Brethren Disaster Ministries responds to storms, flooding in Midwest and Plains.

A rash of severe storms and subsequent flooding has disrupted normal life for thousands of families in parts of the Midwest and Great Plains. For weeks, hardly a day has passed without hearing news of yet another tornado or flood. States on either side of the Mississippi have been hit repeatedly. Already 110 people have been killed by tornadoes, almost twice the 10-year average.

Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services staff are monitoring situations in parts of Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa. This includes participating in conference calls with other response organizations to share information and to offer our services.

As is typical during the initial response phase of a major disaster, Children’s Disaster Services staff have been in touch with American Red Cross personnel in the hardest hit areas, offering to set up child care projects in shelters or assistance centers. Teams of trained child care volunteers will watch children at the centers or shelters while parents clean up and gather the resources necessary to take care of their basic needs and start recovering from the disaster.

Currently Children’s Disaster Services has two project managers in the field, a team of four child care volunteers at work in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and 18 more volunteers who are ready to respond.

In Iowa, Children’s Disaster Services is responding in the Cedar Falls and Cedar Rapids areas. Lorna Grow of Dallas Center, Iowa, is coordinating that response. Children’s Disaster Services also has been invited to set up child care in a combined shelter/service center in Cedar Rapids. Grow has reported that the evacuation of Des Moines may mean there is a need for child care volunteers to work in a shelter there as well.

In Indiana, Ken Kline from Lima, Ohio, will serve as project manager and is assessing the child care needs in the five American Red Cross service centers that are currently open.

Brethren Disaster Ministries staff have made contact with the denomination’s district offices to find out whether any Brethren have been affected by the storms and flooding, and to offer support and advice. District disaster coordinators have been continuously gathering data, sharing needs, and making our services known to the disaster-impacted communities.

In Iowa this morning, Northern Plains District’s interim executive minister Tim Button-Harrison took part in a conference call with ecumenical leaders and disaster responders including staff of Brethren Disaster Ministries. He also has been checking in with Church of the Brethren congregations along the flooding Cedar River: First Baptist/Brethren Church in Cedar Rapids, Greene Church of the Brethren which is a yoked parish with a Methodist church, Hammond Avenue Brethren Church in Waterloo, and South Waterloo Church of the Brethren.

Button-Harrison reported that some members of First Baptist/Brethren Church have probably lost homes and businesses, and there are a number of families at South Waterloo Church of the Brethren whose homes have been flooded. One of the South Waterloo families has been unable to get to their house because of flooding and is living in a motel, while other families have flooded basements. The South Waterloo Church is giving funds to church families who do not have a place to stay, to help them through this difficult time, he said.

All of the Church of the Brethren buildings are okay, Button-Harrison said. The South Waterloo Church has some flooding in its basement, he added, and the Methodist church affiliated with Greene Church of the Brethren also has a flooded basement. A flooded basement "is a pretty common thing right now!" he said. "The question is how much. If you’ve got four-to-five feet (of water) you may have lost everything."

Button-Harrison also called attention to the similarities with floods in 1993. "In 1993 they talked about it being a once in a 500 year flood," he said. "It’s like we’re getting a 500-year flood every 15 years."

Meanwhile, two grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund totaling $11,000 have been issued in response to an appeal from Church World Service (CWS). These grants are supporting the work of CWS to supply material aid, deploy staff for trainings, and financially support Long-Term Recovery Groups working in the affected areas.

An appeal for Emergency Clean-Up Buckets for distribution in the Indiana flood area has been issued by CWS. Donors should not ship the buckets to the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., for this response. Instead, CWS has established a local collection point in Indiana: Penn Products Warehouse, 6075 Lakeside Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46278; 317-388-8580 ext. 298. Drop-off is between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. For more information contact the office of CWS at Elkhart, Ind., at 574-264-3102. Go to for information about what to include in the kits.

--Jane Yount, who serves as coordinator for Brethren Disaster Ministries; Judy Bezon, director of Children’s Disaster Services; and Zachary Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, contributed to this report.

Source: 6/13/2008 Newsline Extra

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