Hurricane Relief: Churches Call for Gifts, Prayers and Volunteers

''We need monetary gifts to sustain and continue our response and ministry efforts''
( [email protected] ) Sep 29, 2004 08:14 PM EDT

Denomination-based relief groups rallied up their volunteers to return to a Jeanne-battered Florida on Sept 27. Despite several hundreds of thousands of dollars in member offerings for the Hurricane relief work, the groups have called on Christians and churches to give more, volunteer, and pray for the victims.

"Government relief agencies and other organizations are responding to the [overall] recovery effort at a scale never before seen in the nation's history," said Heather L. Feltman, director, Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA Domestic Disaster Response.

Hurricane Jeanne is the fourth hurricane in a six-week period to have hit the peninsular state.

According to Kathryn Sime, director of the ELCA World Hunger and Disaster Appeal, some “$300,000 from members, congregations and synods of the ELCA” has been collected in response to the hurricanes and storms in the past six weeks.

"These funds will be used for emergency and short-term needs, as well as our long-term response" in areas affected by hurricanes and storms, she said.

"Given the immediacy of these disasters, we're still assessing the full scope of needs of communities affected by hurricanes and storms. We know that these needs, now and in the future, will be extensive, given the devastation. While these needs can be overwhelming I'm confident that, as a church, our capacity to provide help and hope is even greater. I'm grateful for the generosity [of] our members in the past few weeks," she continued.

Feltman agreed that generosity was greatly needed by the thousands of victims.

The U.S. "has not seen the impact of four hurricanes in a single hurricane season since 1886," Feltman said. "This is the largest FEMA recovery response in the history of our nation, and huge for Lutheran disaster efforts as well. We need monetary gifts to sustain and continue our response and ministry efforts."

Feltman explained the extent of the widespread devastation in Florida.

Hurricane Jeanne "inflicted damage on many Florida neighborhoods and congregations still reeling from earlier storms. Serious structural damage and flooding compromised many buildings. People, including caregivers, are weary and overwhelmed," Feltman said. Many people continue to "stand and wait in long lines for basic-need essentials.”

"There is a wide area of devastation from Pensacola to the southern coastal area of Florida," Feltman continued. “Millions of people in that area are living without power.”

According to the Rev. Thomas Weitzel, director of communications at the ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, hundreds of Lutherans have volunteered for the effort.

"700 people have volunteered" in recovery efforts, "working 3,500 hours," he said. "Help sites have been established in four areas in Florida, and counseling sites for [clergy] and families have been established in six areas.”

Despite the works of the volunteers, Feltman explained that great needs are still remaining in both the U.S. and the Caribbean.

In the Bahamas, the main need for survivors of hurricanes is food, Feltman said. "The infrastructure there is sporadic, and there is re-flooding. The U.S. Virgin Islands reported minimal flooding and minimal damage. Puerto Rico has reported moderate damage and flooding. Clean-up kits are being distributed across the island”

Within the U.S., numerous states have felt the effects of the Hurricanes as well.

"Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania, Maryland and Ohio have all seen devastating flooding due to hurricanes this season. Federal emergency declarations continue to be made daily in these states," Feltman said.

In these and other regions, Feltman explained, "Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA Domestic Disaster Response continue to be involved in all levels of the recovery phase.”

"Funds go to where help is most needed after Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances, Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Jeanne, and those storms, named and unnamed, that might still do damage. All gifts, 100 percent, designated for specific responses are used for the immediate and long-term response following [these] disasters,” said Feltman.

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