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United Methodists plan long-term work in Gulf region
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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Sunday school classrooms at Hartzell United Methodist Church in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward lie in ruins more than six months after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the area.

April 7, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) — United Methodists expect to be involved in Gulf Coast Hurricane recovery work at least until 2012.

An overview of that work was presented to directors of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries during the mission agency's April 3-6 meeting.

As of Feb. 28, the denomination had raised $63.8 million, through the United Methodist Committee on Relief, in response to the 2005 hurricane season. In addition, $7.6 million of relief and emergency supplies were shipped from UMCOR's supply depot to the church's annual (regional) conferences in the Gulf region.

UMCOR has nearly completed the relief phase of its operations on the Gulf Coast, reported Bishop Edward Paup of Seattle, president of the relief agency's board of directors. The long-term recovery phase will begin April 17 and is projected to continue to January 2012.

The Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR's chief executive, explained to board directors that the disaster response agency provides three types of assistance – direct aid, family problem-solving, and rebuilding.

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A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose

Six months after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, the sanctuary of Hartzwell United Methodist Church shows no signs of recovery.

Thirty to forty percent of United Methodist gifts provide for direct aid, such as payments for rent, utilities and child care. Trained case managers assist with family-by-family problem solving.

UMCOR is the lead agency in Katrina Aid Today, a $66 million initiative sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and is training 3,000 professional staff and volunteers who will assist 100,000 families displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

As of Feb. 1, some $6.5 million already had been spent by UMCOR for hurricane assistance. During the spring meeting, UMCOR directors approved a total of $52.3 million to support recovery work in a seven-state area devastated last year by multiple hurricanes. Direct assistance was the largest funding category in each budget submitted by the annual conferences.

The Louisiana Conference has a central recovery center; offices in Metairie, Slidell, West Bank and New Orleans primarily serving the Katrina response and offices in Abbeville and Lake Charles serving the Rita response. UMCOR directors approved a grant of $14.7 million for work through March 2008 and earmarked another $3.5 million April 2008 to March 2009.

The Mississippi Conference is coordinating work in five regions – the Pascagoula area, the Gulfport area, the Biloxi area, counties just north of the Gulf Coast and the rest of the state – and has a resource center in Meridian. They will receive a grant of $8.45 million, with another $2.1 million earmarked for 2008-2009.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
Wrecked homes and storm debris line the streets in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward more than six months after Hurricane Katrina ripped through the area.

The Texas Conference established a recovery office in Beaumont for its Hurricane Rita response. Satellite offices will be set up in Port Arthur, Orange and Silsbee County. The conference will receive $2.85 million, with just under $1 million set aside for later.

That conference also has formed a partnership with Grace Ministries, a local organization, to assist vulnerable Katrina evacuees living in Texas. Grace Ministries will receive $3.2 million from UMCOR, with another $878,363 earmarked for April 2008-March 2009.

Among other hurricane-related grants allocated by UMCOR directors are $1.8 million for the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference for Hurricane Katrina work; $1.58 million to the Florida Annual Conference for its long-term disaster recovery program and $102,900 to the North Carolina Annual Conference for its Hurricane Ophelia recovery program.

Also approved was $750,235 for work related to the damage caused by Hurricanes Stan and Beta in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. An additional $749,765 was earmarked for long-term recovery projects in that region.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

Audio Interviews

Bishop Edward Paup "This work will be going on until 2012."

The Rev. Paul Dirdak "Forty percent of the gifts are used for family costs."

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