Christian Relief Groups Respond to Storms and Flooding in the Midwest

( [email protected] ) May 28, 2004 11:50 AM EDT

Following the slew of disastrous storms and tornadoes that struck the Midwest over the weekend, many church-based agencies have responded by providing emergency grants, short-term preparations and long-term plans by May 27, 2004.

The Church World Service (CWS) Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons began working with members of the statewide Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster coalition since the storms hit. CWS has also been gathering information in Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Illinois and Indiana.

The Iowa Interfaith Disaster Recovery Organization will also be taking the lead in the state to continue faith-based recovery works.

Denomination-based groups have also helped the situation by sending emergency grants to both Nebraska and Iowa. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has remained in contact with the United Methodist conference representatives in the region.

"Damages are still being assessed in many areas, and UMCOR is considering where to focus its resources for long-term recovery," said Tom Hazelwood, executive secretary for disaster response in the U.S. for UMCOR.

The Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) has also been working alongside local contacts to assess the damages.

"The immediate needs and damages are being assessed and interfaith efforts are beginning," reported Gil Furst of LDR. "Many devastated areas are still inaccessible or closed to relief efforts because of dangerous debris that must be removed. It is certain that major cleanup will be needed, as well as counseling services for those whose lives have been affected by this destructive weather."

The Christian Reformed World Relief Committee reported that it would be involved in cleaning up debris, surveying the needs of various communities and repairing and rebuilding homes of the victims.

According to reports from CWS and other relief groups, one tornado completely demolished the small town of Hallam, Nebraska, leaving one dead, 37 injured and 276 homeless. In northern Illinois, residents battled what they called the worst flood in two decades; the Des Plaines River rose 12.7 feet to 5.7 feet over the flood level.

The Lutheran Child and Family Services (LCFS) have stepped in by helping local pastors prepare along the Des Plaines River by preparing for flooding.

"We've spent a good amount of time talking to pastors and getting services lined up," said Dave Roth, director of public policy and community development for LCSF. "So essentially we've done an alert letting them know the resources we have, that's our preparation."

According to residents in Gurnee, the preparation was extremely helpful.

Even though some 12 homes have been evacuated, people have had a lot of time to prepare for this. You could say they're trying to go with the flow," said Carol Cook, parish administrator for the Bethel Lutheran Church in Gurnee. "It looks like many people have insurance as well, but we'll see."

"There's a great sense of community there, people and the city governments are working well together," said Roth, who also serves as co-coordinator for Lutheran Disaster Response in Illinois. "They're very prepared."