Relief Efforts Continue After Hurricane Ivan's Devastation

( [email protected] ) Sep 20, 2004 04:53 PM EDT

Forecasters closed the book on Ivan as its remnants dissipated over the Atlantic Ocean, following a devastating 12-day rampage that left at least 108 dead in the United States and the Caribbean. But an end to the clean-up and the mourning were nowhere in sight for areas devastated by the storm that left at least 70 dead in the Caribbean and 38 in the United States.

"I want to tell the citizens of this part of the world that we're praying for you, that we'll get help out here as quickly as we can, and that we ask God's blessings on you and your families," said President George W. Bush, on a trip to the hardest-hit regions in Florida and Alabama.

"The amazing thing about these catastrophes is how the American people rise to the occasion," he told residents there, where the full fury of Ivan's winds and rain pounded last week. Bush, who has declared Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and North Carolina disaster areas, promised government aid to help rebuild parts of the southeastern United States devastated by Hurricane Ivan.

Meanwhile, in a national plea to grantmakers and the public, Church World Service Executive Director and CEO the Rev. John L. McCullough said, “We’re asking for significant financial assistance to support the work that will be needed.”

CWS, a ministry of 36 Protestant, Orthodox, and Anglican denominations in the United States, announced Friday morning that it anticipates a need for long-term recovery initiatives over the next three to five years in areas hardest hit by Hurricanes Ivan, Frances and Charley.

“The need for financial resources is already immense, and will increase considerably should more hurricanes affect the United States this year,” McCullough said. “All agencies engaged in disaster response are going to be seriously challenged to meet the needs,” he added.

By way of initial aid response, CWS has expedited $151,408 in emergency supplies. The four shipments contain CWS Blankets and "Gift of the Heart” Baby Kits, Health Kits, and Clean-up Buckets. Additional shipments of emergency supplies are anticipated.

The agency is also providing emergency grants to support quick start-up of community recovery organizations and will continue to provide financial assistance in the long-term phase of its response.

CWS’s McCullough noted that areas impacted by the season’s three deadly storms to date contain a “sizeable population of very vulnerable people, including the elderly and Florida’s migrant farm worker population.”

CWS Emergency Response Program Director Rick Augsburger says the agency will focus on “at least ten of the hardest hit counties in central Florida and in several other affected communities in the southeastern United States.”

“Our response to the multi-state emergency will be significant and long-term,” said Augsburger.

Augsburger reported that Church World Service is deploying emergency response staff–-Disaster Response & Recovery Liaisons–-to Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. Some of those staff have been working in Florida since Hurricane Charley.

The CWS team will continue assessments that began after Charley and now include impacted areas from Frances and Ivan, determining requirements for material assistance and emergency grants, damage to faith community facilities (churches, mosques and synagogues), and the scope of needs of vulnerable populations and their support systems.

In the process, CWS Emergency Response Program staff members are assisting state and local faith organizations in developing long-term programs aimed at restoring livelihoods and homes of vulnerable populations.

Augsburger says this assistance will include mentoring, training and financial support. “In that way,” he said, “We’ll be able to assist the most vulnerable with repairing homes and construction, emotional care, and long-term recovery.

In the Caribbean, an initial response includes an emergency shipment of Health Kits that arrived this week in the Bahamas, hard-hit by Hurricane Frances.

Also, at the request of Florida church leaders, Church World Service is deploying its Interfaith Trauma Response Team (ITRT) to conduct "Care for the Caregiver" resource seminars for clergy and other caregivers now depleted from over a month of storm-on-storm community needs.

Focusing on hardest hit areas of Florida, the trauma response team is scheduling an initial meeting tomorrow, Tuesday, with area faith leaders to begin assessment and plan the workshops. The "Care for the Caregivers" seminars will support clergy and other faith-based caregivers in addressing the emotional and psychological impact of disasters, and will continue for an extended period.

To support relief efforts for victims of this hurricane season through Church World Service, call (800) 297-1516 or go to online at