Long-Term Recovery Leadership Provided By UMCOR-Funded Station
By Susan J. Meister
After emergency response to a natural disaster, a community organizes to tackle the long-term rebuilding process. In the Slidell, La. area, which suffered extensive wind and water damage after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in August 2005, Northshore Disaster Recovery, Inc. (NDRI) is leading the multi-year recovery effort.
NDRI is one of the stations of the Louisiana United Methodist Disaster Recovery Ministry, funded by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). The staff provides case management and construction support for households in St. Tammany and Washington Parishes and serves as the long term recovery organization for St. Tammany Parish.
Nearly 90 organizations are part of NDRI, including forty faith-based organizations, twenty-seven civic organizations, and government liaison representatives. Organizations contribute financial resources, volunteers, housing, construction materials, and warehousing.
At a recent meeting, NDRI Director Dale Kimball reviewed progress, including the re-signing of three long-term volunteer groups who committed to send volunteers each week for the next calendar year. “Volunteers are our most important resource,” Kimball asserted. “We must continue recruiting for the long term.” Kimball had just returned from a recruiting trip to six states, where he received commitments from twenty-eight additional teams.
Rebuilding Homes and the Community
Kimball also reminded the group that NDRI is about more than rebuilding homes. “We want to rebuild the whole community,” he explained. A recent partnership with Save the Children has placed mobile homes at two FEMA trailer parks in St. Tammany Parish which will function as community centers, with after-school programs, tutoring by high school students, crisis counseling and an array of other services. Kimball also noted the upcoming dedication of the Mt. Olive Soup Kitchen, which was rebuilt largely with labor arranged through NDRI.
“NDRI has been the catalyst to bring the resources of our community together,” said Shirleen Carter, Executive Director of United Way serving St. Tammany Parish, a member of NDRI.
“After a few months (after Katrina), it was evident that there must be an organized structure in place to bring all the resources and organizations together to meet the demands of the long haul,” Carter continued. “It takes everyone to contribute and at the end of the day the results have been enormous – over 400 homes rebuilt and over 18,000 volunteers from around the world.”
The work of NDRI is consistent with the long-term recovery philosophy of UMCOR, which works with communities to take ownership of their healing long after a disaster strikes. The case management model implemented by this station and others in the Louisiana Annual Conference, considered “best practice” in long-term recovery, emphasizes family-by-family problem solving, with a caring case manager accompanying each family. The NDRI mission focuses on those who were uninsured or under-insured and whose unmet needs will not be covered by other relief systems. The current primary focus is those in FEMA trailers, the elderly, and those most at risk during hurricane season.
NDRI Actively Seeks Funding and Volunteers
Those involved with the recovery effort in Slidell and the Northshore acknowledge that the rebuilding will be a multi-year effort. NDRI continues to actively seek funding, volunteers, and additional resources to sustain their work. Funding for NDRI projects comes from private and faith-based donations and grants. Grantor agencies include American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, United Way, AmeriCares, Christian Reformed World Relief Committee (CRWRC), and Louisiana Family Recovery Corps (LFRC). A recent grant from the Rotary Club, Little Rock, Arkansas, will fund rebuilding in the nearby Lacombe area.
In early September, NDRI formalized an agreement with the First Church of the Nazarene to house volunteer teams. Pat McQueen, administrative assistant, is thrilled with the arrangement. “They can house up to 50 volunteers at a time, with a big gymnasium, showers and a kitchen,” she exclaimed. The church joins a long list of other churches who are housing volunteers, including Aldersgate UMC, which houses the offices of NDRI. “This is truly an ecumenical effort,” McQueen said.
Those involved in recovery in Slidell and other areas along the Gulf Coast know that the recovery process will take years. “It will take another year or two for areas directly impacted by the storm to regain a sense of normalcy,” explained Carter. And, for Carter and others, NDRI will not only organize responses for years to come, but also serves as a model for others.
“I believe because of the magnitude of this disaster, our hands-on experience will serve to benefit others across the United States and the world,” she said.
A variety of web sites have additional information about long term recovery, including Northshore Disaster Recovery, Inc.; Louisiana United Methodist Disaster Recovery Ministry; and UMCOR. According to a recent report, Serving Survivors, over 60,000 persons have received United Methodist assistance during long-term recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast, in communities affected by the hurricanes of 2005 in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.