Hurricanes 2005: UMCOR Helps 120,000 in Continuing Effort
By Susan J. Meister*
NEW YORK, NY, August 18, 2008—In the three years since the devastating hurricane season of 2005, nearly 120,000 families and individuals have received United Methodist assistance for long-term recovery on the US Gulf Coast. A report issued today by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), “Sustaining Survivors’ Long-Term Recovery,” summarizes the United Methodist response through June 30, 2008.
“Outstanding stewardship and excellent case management by our partners have supported our continuing presence from Texas to Florida,” explained Sam Dixon, UMCOR chief executive. “The generosity of donors and selfless work from volunteers from around the world have made it possible for us to make an exceptional effort in helping survivors across the Gulf to rebuild their homes and lives.”
The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active in recorded history, spawning 28 storms, 15 of which became hurricanes, including Katrina. While recovery is continuing, rebuilding from the unprecedented wind and water damage will take years to complete.
Good Stewardship Stretches Resources for Multi-Year Effort
The summary reports that UMCOR has disbursed just over 80 percent of the funds donated to the Hurricanes 2005 appeal. The total giving, just over $66 million, was the highest ever for an UMCOR Advance. “We expect that our good stewardship will allow our partners to continue work for at least another two years,” Dixon continued.
UMCOR partners in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama-West Florida, and Florida have established effective organizations to identify and work with survivors, recruit and host volunteer teams, and manage rebuilding efforts. The UMCOR case management approach, recognized as ‘best practice’ in the disaster response community, has been used to help families write their own recovery plan and access resources to help with rebuilding and recovery.
“Our case managers have become experts in working with families and leveraging resources for them,” said Tom Hazelwood, UMCOR executive for domestic disaster response. “By using multiple funding sources from faith-based groups and government grants, case managers put packages together to repair and rebuild homes, with the help of committed volunteers.”
Volunteers the Life-Blood of the Recovery Effort
Volunteers continue to travel to the Gulf Coast in unprecedented numbers. The UMCOR report documents that well over 125,000 persons from around the world have assisted with United Methodist-related rebuilding efforts. Partner conferences report that many churches have sent repeat teams in the three year period, and have committed to continuing mission trips for years to come.
As of June 30, 2008, nearly 32,000 homes have been rebuilt or repaired through United Methodist efforts. USA Today, a national publication, reported in 2007 that UMCOR home improvement efforts outpaced any other agency working in the region and that United Methodists represented the third largest contingent of volunteers. The pace of rebuilding continued in 2008.
Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu from Louisiana is among those officials who recognize the key role of the church during the hurricane recovery efforts. "Faith-based organizations have taken a leading role in rebuilding and revitalizing New Orleans and the Gulf Coast,” Landrieu wrote. “We are grateful for all faith communities who gave—and continue to give—of their time, money, and effort to help us rebuild our home and our spirit." The UMCOR report includes completed and ongoing work.
The three year report details the disbursement of funds and lists quantitative results of assistance to UMCOR partners. Ongoing work is documented for Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Work has been completed in Alabama-West Florida and Florida Conference and other United Methodist institutions and partners. The summary includes a reference to the completed work of Katrina Aid Today (www.katrinaaidtoday.org), a national case management consortium of nine national agencies overseen by UMCOR, which touched another 68,000 plus families and individuals across the nation.
“The United Methodists did it right,” said Dale Kimball, station manager at the Southeast Louisiana Disaster Recovery Station. “We have the structure and organization and the generosity of our church and volunteers. The United Methodists are the leaders in the recovery.”
Full details of the report are available on-line.
*Meister is a Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR