UMCOR / News Room / News & Features / Archives 2007 / 0810 - Symbols of Hope

Symbols of Hope and Recovery

BEAUMONT, TX. AUG. 10, 2007—Two large trees of hope constantly encourage the volunteer staff in the Rita Recovery office in the Wesley United Methodist Church, in Beaumont, Texas. Two wall displays illustrate the long-term recovery work that continues after one of the costliest storms in US history—Hurricane Rita, which struck the Texas—Louisiana border in the fall of 2005.

On one side is the "Tree of Recovery" where a leaf is added every time home repair work is completed. On the opposite wall is "Helping Hands," made of cut-out hand prints-representing each of the volunteer teams that have participated in the rebuilding effort.

"We have a goal of 400 homes to be completed by the end of August," said executive director Angela Baker, and as of July 2007, there were 343 "leaves" on the Tree of Recovery toward that goal. The Helping Hands tree currently celebrates 388 volunteer teams from 28 states, representing over 168,000 hours of labor. Last month, 170 volunteers from 12 different churches in the Missouri Conference added their helping hands to the community effort.

UMCOR has been hard at work assisting the Texas and Louisiana Conferences to design and implement long-term recovery plans. The Rita Recovery office, which covers Beaumont, Port Arthur and Orange, Tx., as well as surrounding communities, has helped 1,771 families in their long-term recovery. And the work continues, as recent heavy rains in Texas have penetrated already-damaged roofs and caused ceilings to collapse.

"We are seeing people who desperately need help," explained Stephanie Lundgreen, a supervisor at the Rita Recovery office. "One elderly gentleman tried to patch his own roof and stuffed clothes in the holes to keep the rain water out."

The majority of clients are elderly, handicapped, or single parents who have little or no insurance to cover damages. Many have been on a waiting list for almost two years. But, there's hope- Baker and her staff are promoting a "Rita Recovery Blitz Build" from September 9-29, 2007 to help those who are waiting for rebuilding assistance.

For more information on the work in southeast Texas and to volunteer, go to the Rita Recovery web site.