UMCOR / Our Work / Disaster Response / Ongoing / Katrina & Rita / Bright Spots

UMCOR Bright Spots

UMCOR Bright Spots

January 22, 2009

Editor’s Note: This is the final issue of the e-newsletter Bright Spots. For additional stories about the work of UMCOR and its partners, subscribe to the UMCOR Hotline and check the UMCOR web site frequently.

*Disaster Recovery Ministry Responds to Damage From Four Hurricanes in Dulac and  Surrounding Areas
*UMCOR Still “On The Ground” Along Gulf Coast
*This Week's Quote
*Recovery Stats
*The Feet of Jesus…(slide show)

Disaster Recovery Ministry Responds to Damage From Four Hurricanes in Dulac and Surrounding Areas

By Susan J. Meister, Domestic Disaster Response Correspondent

“We thought Rita was a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ storm,” said Miss Barbara. Damage to her home in Dulac, La., had been repaired by volunteers and the Louisiana Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry, an UMCOR partner. “We were all done except the gutter,” she sighed.

Miss Barbara’s home

Miss Barbara’s home, repaired after Rita, suffered additional damage from Hurricane Ike.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

When Hurricane Ike roared in last fall, its tidal surge was 18 inches higher than Rita. A ramp, floors, and more in Miss Barbara’s home needed to be repaired again. A student volunteer group from Union College, New York, was busy with the work as Mr. Darryl Guy, construction supervisor, checked in. “The flooding was higher than Rita,” he confirmed. “Even properties elevated after the 2005 hurricane were not high enough. Now people in Houma (La.) are getting their feet wet.”

For many, Gustav is the storm that missed New Orleans, and Ike is the storm that hit Galveston, Tex. But for residents of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes southwest of New Orleans, the storms didn’t miss anyone. High winds from Gustav took their toll and Hurricane Ike pushed flood waters over levees in the Louisiana parishes.

Dulac Community Center at Hub of Multi-storm Recovery Effort

Dulac Community Center is one of 103 National Mission Institutions of the General Board of Global Ministries. It has a long history of improving the quality of life for area residents. In 2006, the Louisiana Conference Disaster Recovery Ministry expanded operations into the parish. That summer, new volunteer housing was made possible through a grant issued by UMCOR.

Students from Union College

Students from Union College, New York, cut new paneling underneath a home in Dulac, raised ten feet from ground level.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

Volunteers from around the country have traveled to Dulac to help with the Rita rebuilding effort. In 2009, that effort continues to respond to new needs.

Mr. John Paul McGuire, volunteer and former disaster recovery staff member, traveled to Dulac shortly after Gustav to assess the damage and was there when Ike stormed through the state. “It was just heartbreaking,” Mr. McGuire said. “Some of the homes had escaped damage from Gustav and with their owners, I celebrated their good fortune. Then they were caught by Ike.”

Under the leadership of Executive Director Ms. Jaime Billiot, the Community Center opened shortly after Gustav. But it took longer to clean up after Ike, which pushed five feet of water and mud into the gymnasium building. Even the disaster recovery ministry was affected. Three shipping containers of rebuilding supplies stored on the property were ruined by flood waters.

Conference Ministry Realigns to Address Needs

Louisiana Disaster Recovery leadership is realigning its ministry to continue Katrina and Rita recovery work, and address the new damage caused by Gustav and Ike throughout the conference.

Homes along the bayou in Terrebone Parish are raised to reduce the effects of flooding.

Homes along the bayou in Terrebone Parish are raised to reduce the effects of flooding.
Photo by Susan J. Meister/UMCOR

“The Louisiana Family Recovery Corps (LFRC) has granted us $1 million to help repair homes in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes,” reports the Rev. Amy Mercer, deputy director. The response in the area will be administered through the southeast station, headed by Mr. Dale Kimball, while the southwest station shifts its focus to Cameron Parish and the surrounding area hit by Rita and Ike.

The Rev. Curtis Eden, who serves the southeast station as hospitality coordinator, is hard at work in Houma and Thibodaux (north of Dulac) to set up case management and volunteer housing to respond to needs in those communities. She has already trained eight volunteers to do assessments. Rev. Eden is also seeking to hire a case manager who, she adds, must be fluent in French to speak to the residents. “We already have fifty applications,” she said, “and we’re just getting started!”

Long term volunteers Wayne and Regan Wooley returned to Dulac in early January to begin construction and case management services. Mr. Wooley had been helping Mr. Maquire with assessments after Gustav.

“My first response was also heartbreak,” he said. “What turned me around was talking to the families – they were disappointed, but upbeat. They were determined to continue with their lives in the area they know and love.”

For more information about the ongoing Louisiana Conference disaster response ministry, go to the LA Storm Center web site. Volunteers are needed for 2009 and beyond. Financial gifts to Hurricanes 2008, UMCOR Advance #3019695 will help meet the needs for materials and for the rebuilding effort along the whole Gulf Coast.