7:00 A.M. EST March 23, 2010 | NASHVILLE (UMNS)
Ken Ward (left) and Dale Kimball of the United Methodist Slidell (La.)
Disaster Recovery Station visit with Leona Cousins, 95, during work to
rebuild her home following Hurricane Katrina in July 2006. UMNS file
photos by Mike DuBose.
View in Photo Gallery
After nearly five years of relief and recovery work in Gulf Coast
states affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the United Methodist
Committee on Relief has released its final disbursement of funds for the
“Our work in Louisiana and Mississippi, like our work in Haiti
(following the Jan. 12 earthquake) is based on our methodology of being
there for the long haul,” said the Rev. Tom Hazelwood, an UMCOR
“I am very proud of the fact that here we are in March 2010 and
UMCOR is just now making this final disbursement,” the last of nearly
five years of quarterly payments, he said. “Most national organizations
did so two years ago.”
Since the summer of 2005, when Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf
Coast on Aug. 23 and Hurricane Rita struck it again one month later,
UMCOR has been working with annual conferences and grassroots
organizations in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Florida.
UMCOR also has supported survivors who fled to other states. More
than 1.3 million people left hurricane-soaked hometowns where some
300,000 homes had been wiped out, scattering to all 50 states.
Volunteers, benefactors aid recovery
United Methodists and people of goodwill across the country donated
more than $64.5 million to UMCOR’s recovery effort on the Gulf Coast.
Funds went to cleanup, reconstruction, family-by-family problem solving
and direct assistance to support the survivors.
Members of a team from Christ Church United Methodist in New York
repair a Biloxi, Miss. home.
View in Photo Gallery
The remaining funds will continue to
support recovery work in Louisiana, where UMCOR has helped the annual
conference repair or rebuild more than 9,100 homes so far, and in
Mississippi, where it has supported the repair of some 12,320 homes,
more than 100 of them from scratch.
In Texas, where Hurricane Rita was strongest, UMCOR helped the
conference repair or rebuild 721 homes. More than 8,300 volunteers
carried out this work, donating some 268,108 hours, valued at nearly
“Because of our connectional system, United Methodists are uniquely
positioned throughout the country and the world to meet the needs of
survivors, including how we rally volunteers,” said Catherine Earl,
UMCOR executive secretary for U.S. disaster response.
In Louisiana, nearly 72,000 volunteers have so far logged 3 million
hours of donated time, energy and effort, and 160,000 volunteers have
participated in recovery efforts in Mississippi.
In the Alabama – West Florida Conference, which was hit by Hurricane
Ivan in 2004 and Hurricanes Dennis and Katrina in 2005, more than
5,500 volunteers repaired, rebuilt or removed debris from nearly 2,000
“It was heartening to see the efforts of so many people from all
over the country, who could just as easily have stayed home,” said the
Rev. Clyde Pressley, the conference’s disaster recovery executive
director. “I have had a rebirth in my heart over the value of the
Disaster case management
UMCOR became a conduit for overseas donations when it was tapped by
the Federal Emergency Management Agency to administer another $66
million in contributions from foreign governments in a project called
Katrina Aid Today.
The project’s objective was to prepare and support the management of
individual cases of hurricane survivors. Over 24 months, Katrina Aid
Today followed 72,770 cases, representing 193,568 individual survivors
who were either living in their homes or relocated.
Although the final disbursement of funds has been made to the Gulf
Coast, UMCOR’s work is not done. “We’ll continue to be involved for up
to two more years,” Hazelwood said.
“It’s an opportune moment,” he added, “when we’re in the beginning
stages of relief and recovery in Haiti, to mark this final disbursement
of funds for our Katrina/Rita effort five years after the hurricanes.
It really reflects how UMCOR’s ministry unfolds among the people over a
period of years.”
*Unger is a staff writer for the United Methodist Committee on
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or