Southeast Louisiana Team Brings Rebuilding Expertise to Iowa
By Susan J. Meister*
October 14, 2008—Spirits were high among the sixteen member team from Southeast Louisiana while they loaded their trucks for the first day of work in Oakville, IA. But as they drove twelve miles east from Morning Sun UMC and crossed a destroyed levee, where all the houses were destroyed by the June flooding, the mood became somber.
"I'm just overwhelmed," said Marie Williams. "This brings back all those memories."
Williams is one of the pastors of Aldersgate UMC, Slidell, La, the original home of UMCOR-funded Northshore Disaster Recovery Inc., which has helped hundreds of families recover and rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Under the leadership of Southeast Disaster Response Station (Louisiana Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry) manager Dale Kimball, staff and friends were "giving back."
Oakville, a town of 439 persons, was inundated with 7-8' of flood water on June 14 when a levee protecting the town and surrounding farmland was overtopped by the rising Iowa River, which is about a mile from the town. Every one of the 179 homes was damaged.
The rebuilding effort in Iowa will be a long-term effort. Seventy-eight of the state's 99 counties have been designated eligible for federal Individual Assistance, according to the Rebuild Iowa Office (RIO) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Kimball's Second Trip to Iowa
Kimball traveled to eastern Iowa with UMCOR executive Tom Hazelwood a month earlier to plan mission trips and deliver cleaning equipment. A second team from southeast Louisiana is expected to travel to Iowa the week of November 15. Twenty-one persons have signed up so far. "This is an important part of our healing," said Amy Mercer, deputy director of the Louisiana Conference disaster response organization. "Who better to help a flooded community than the people of Louisiana?" Kimball added.
Over the past three years, the Louisiana Conference has hosted twenty-six teams from Iowa for hurricane recovery work, including some from the very areas affected by the June flooding.
How to Help
To volunteer to help in Iowa, go to the conference web site and click on "Storms of 2008, Volunteer Opportunities." There are numerous other volunteer opportunities in the Midwestern states recovering from disastrous flooding; go to the North Central Jurisdiction United Methodist Volunteers in Mission web site.
Your financial gifts as well as flood buckets are also needed to aid in the clean-up and recovery process. Visit UMCOR's Relief Supplies web page to learn about flood bucket contents and shipping requirements. Giving generously to Domestic Disaster Response, Midwest Flooding, UMCOR Advance #901670 will help UMCOR respond to those most affected.
*Meister is Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent for UMCOR.