UMCOR 9/11 funds continue to assist secondary victims
July 13, 2004
By Linda Bloom*
YORK (UMNS) -- A man whose brother took over an early shift for him on
the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, at Windows on the World is left depressed
A driver who worked for a limousine service
that drew 70 percent of its business from the World Trade Center loses
his home, his job and his marriage.
A mother with children doesnt know where to turn because her husband has been deported under the Patriot Act.
are some of the people suffering the long-term effects of the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks who have sought help from the United Methodist Church.
has come through United Methodist Committee on Relief's 9/11 Disaster
Response in New York, the disaster response programs of the United
Methodist Greater New Jersey and New York annual conferences, and
projects in the denomination's Virginia Annual Conference. Church
members generously donated more than $20 million in the aftermath of the
tragedy to finance these ministries.
The need was evident from
the start, according to the Rev. Christopher Miller, who directs the
HEART (Healing, Encouragement and Advocacy in Response to Tragedy)
program for the Greater New Jersey Conference.
"We were so
overwhelmed by the numbers of clients who came to us by word-of-mouth
that we never really had to go out and search for clients," he told
United Methodist News Service.
The Rev. Charles "Chick" Straut,
who has led the 9/11 work of the New York Annual Conference, noted that
very few minimum-wage workers impacted by the attacks received any
government compensation. The conference's work, in conjunction with
UMCOR, aimed "at the least of these -- people the media don't even call
A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin
caseworker for the United Methodist Committee on Relief visits with Yuk
Fan Chan (left), who is seeking assistance following the Sept. 11, 2001
Crystal Ip (right), a caseworker for United Methodist Committee on
Relief�s 9/11 Disaster Response in New York, visits with Yuk Fan Chan,
who is seeking assistance from the United Methodist Church following the
Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin. Photo number 04-258, 7/13/04
The New York UMCOR program, led by the Rev. Ramon
Nieves, a United Methodist pastor from Chicago, had served some 1,800
individuals and families through June, through the main office at 475
Riverside Drive and 10 satellite offices in the city's five boroughs.
With 75 percent of the work in the field, the four caseworkers manage
two to three offices apiece. "Our model has been to meet the clients
where they're at," Nieves explained.
In Queens, for example,
many of those clients are Muslim and Hindu. Some have been detained
under the Patriot Act. In a few cases, family members have been
deported. "The racial profiling is the highest it's ever been," Nieves
said. "That's been a big complaint on behalf of our clientele."
biggest needs revolve around economic issues, which also can impact
mental health. Caseworker Jenny Crystal Ip, said many of the clients she
sees in Chinatown work in the garment industry, which suffered a loss
of business after 9/11. Because garment work pays by the piece,
employees can earn as little as $10 a day. "Even if they (clients) have a
job now, they don't work full time," she added.
Encarnacion, another caseworker for UMCOR 9/11 Disaster Response, deals
with a large Hispanic clientele, many of who are untrained and some of
who are undocumented. Although more clients found part-time employment
this year, most are underemployed, she noted.
is part of the problem. "I had a client who worked at the trade center
for over 10 years," she said. "He never thought he would lose his job."
caseworkers pointed to clients who had accepted the tragedy and the
need to move on, but were unable to find another job, which led to
psychological problems and depression.
Mental health care remains
important, according to Nieves. Two clients currently under psychiatric
care include a woman who was burned on her hands and back and saw
co-workers die as they fled from the 97th floor of one of the towers,
and a man from Staten Island who had just left the building to get
coffee for his boss. "The next thing he saw was bodies exploding into
the ground," he recounted.
Another client had a brother who had
taken his shift at Windows on the World restaurant. "His brother went in
at 7 a.m. and never came out," Nieves said.
The man, who had been
depressed, recently called him and said his brother's body had finally
been identified. "He said it with so much peace," he added. "He said, 'I
can go home now' and went back to the Dominican Republic."
attributes the success of his program to the denomination itself. "The
United Methodist Church is the backbone of the program," he explained.
"It is through the churches that we are able to reach people."
the New York Conference, about 50 to 55 churches organized more than 80
projects to assist in the 9/11 aftermath, according to Straut. "Every
one of these programs showed the imagination of the local church
leadership," he said.
A UMNS photo by John C. Goodwin
Jenny Crystal Ip (right) gets a hug from Siying Shea, who is seeking
assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief�s 9/11 Disaster
Response in New York.
Crystal Ip (right), a caseworker for United Methodist Committee on
Relief�s 9/11 Disaster Response in New York, gets a hug from Siying
Shea, who is seeking assistance from the United Methodist Church
following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. A UMNS photo by John C.
Goodwin. Photo number 04-256, 7/13/04
A favorite project of his was the Coney Island
Avenue Project in Brooklyn, which involved Park Slope United Methodist
Church. The heavily Pakistani population in that area was one of the
first to fall under the anti-immigrant backlash and people were picked
up during sweeps and sent to detention centers without warning. The
project helped family members of detainees, conducted seminars on
citizens' rights and provided legal referrals. "To me, it was one of the
most exciting uses of our money," Straut said.
Nieves and Straut have served as co-chairmen of the New York Disaster
Interfaith Services, which provides disaster-preparedness training and
offers a collective approach to services through its "unmet needs
roundtable." If a family was about to lose a home because they owed
$10,000 on a mortgage, for example, "together, we could be able to meet
that unmet need," Nieves explained.
Involvement in the New Jersey
Interfaith Partnership for Disaster Recovery also was beneficial and the
9/11 Long-Term Recovery Committee of the New Jersey Volunteer
Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD) also helped bring referrals to
that conference's HEART program, according to Miller.
past two years, Miller has been able to develop "agency to agency"
working relationships with as many as 17 agencies. "I basically used
them as contract case managers," he explained. "The agency would usually
come to me with needs for their clients who met our criteria and I
would expect the same information and level of case management from them
as I would from my own staff. If that was happening, then I would
support their clients financially."
That setup has allowed HEART
-- which is based in the conference office building in Ocean, N.J. -- to
work with as many as 313 clients, some of whom were undocumented. And
when Miller was overwhelmed with new clients coming in, some of the
agencies were able to provide back-up case management. "This allowed us
to keep our administrative costs down and we never had to put anyone on a
waiting list," he said.
Continuing psychological issues for those
clients range from low self-esteem to depression to full-blown
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to Miller. Those with strong
support from family, friends, co-workers or church congregations; with a
strong sense of faith, successful recuperation from other traumatic
events and good physical and mental health fared the best, he said.
of our most difficult 'type' of client is the one who was marginally
functional to begin with and was knocked completely for a loop by the
events of Sept. 11, 2001," Miller added.
Hidden victims of 9/11
also can be found south of Washington, not far from the attack on the
Pentagon. To assist those victims, the United Methodist Church in
Northern Virginia coordinated with six organizations. One year of
9/11-related funding remains for those programs, according to the Rev.
Herb Brynildsen, Arlington District program coordinator.
Hope United Methodist Mission Church, which has many homeless or
formerly homeless members, is one of those organizations. Connected to
the Rising Hope church is Route One Neighborhood Shalom Organization,
dedicated to empowering low-income and disenfranchised residents and its
subsidiary, Phoenix Rising, a program serving bagged meals and
providing those in need with other donated items and social service
UMCOR funding has allowed Rising Hope to expand its
food pantry and meals program, Brynildsen said, and Phoenix Rising has
added more delivered meals on weekends.
Grace Ministries, one of
largest recipients of the grant money, has offered job training in areas
such as childcare, elder care and first aid and has three sites for
food distribution, with the newest site in Herndon. "We'll continue to
see growth in that area," he added. "Herndon has a large immigrant
An English as a Second Language program now has sites
in 21 local United Methodist churches, some of which have computer
centers to assist with workplace literacy. Bi-District Hispanic
Ministries offers emergency assistance and advocacy and has worked "to
create an oasis of peace" in the midst of the immigrant community, he
The demand for emergency assistance remains a constant.
"Rent assistance has been a big problem for us," Brynildsen explained.
"We've depleted our budget on that often."
But the issues that
have really impacted immigrants after 9/11, he pointed out, have been
changes in immigration laws and outright discrimination -- making it
difficult for them to obtain driver's licenses and other forms of
government identification and decreasing their ability to find jobs.
Because of that, demands for legal assistance through the Northern
Virginia Board of Missions/Immigrant and Legal Services Task Force
continue to grow. "That's where some of the greatest impact (of the 9/11
grant) has been," he said.
In New York, UMCOR 9/11 Disaster
Response is beginning to wind down its work, although it will continue
to accept new clients in the near future. As the program phases out,
Nieves said, it would provide training "to ensure the leadership of the
(New York) annual conference is ready when UMCOR closes its
For Nieves, working with the program
has been the most "incredible ministry" he has experienced as a pastor.
"You realize that life is a gift that you've got to return when you meet
the 9/11 families," he said.
Straut, who is retired, also expects
to end his own duties by next May. The conference's new structure, a
"Connectional Ministries Table," includes a disaster-preparedness and
response ministry that will be led by a conference member, with a staff
member assigned to it.
The most recent findings from the Oklahoma
City terrorist attack, Straut pointed out, show that the peak stress
period occurs two to five years after the event. The New York Conference
still has counseling funds that it will continue to make available.
said the HEART program, which entered its third year in July, would
probably continue to assist some chronic clients through the fifth year,
depending upon demand and "the ability for clients to recover.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer.
News media contact: Linda Bloom(646)369-3759 New York E-mail: email@example.com.