UMCOR grants bolster community centers on Gulf Coast
Oct. 13, 2006
The Rev. Paul Dirdak
By Linda Bloom*
STAMFORD, Conn. (UMNS) — Three United
Methodist community centers on the Gulf Coast — still struggling to recover
from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as they assist area residents — will
receive additional assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.
UMCOR directors approved the funding during the Oct. 9-12 annual meeting of
the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR's parent agency.
The relief agency also announced the awarding of major grants from the U.S.
government for work in two African countries and the expectation of a $3.4
million grant from the United Nations Development Program for continuing
tsunami-related work in Indonesia.
The Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR's chief executive, noted that the Gulf Coast
community centers, which are owned by the board's Women's Division and
relate to its community and institutional ministries unit, provide a
backbone of support, especially for the poor. "The idea is to bring these
institutions back into social service," he said.
Work in Louisiana, Mississippi
A UMNS photo courtesy of Louisiana Now!
A volunteer work team from South Africa removes debris from outside St. Mark's Community Center in New Orleans.
At Moore Community House in Biloxi, Miss., eight buildings and three
playgrounds were destroyed by Katrina. A $392,437 grant will allow the
rebuilding of the child development center, playground and offices. Child
care for children under 5 years old has been identified as a high-priority
unmet need in the area.
A $385,992 grant to the denomination's Louisiana Annual (regional)
Conference will allow the expansion of the Dulac Community Center to house
volunteers who come to the area to rebuild after a disaster. Dulac is an
area populated by the Houma Nation, and many homes were damaged or destroyed
by Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.
Near the French Quarter of New Orleans, a $464,008 grant will be used to
rehabilitate St. Mark's Community Center, to provide space for volunteer
teams and allow for the start-up of social service programs as the
neighborhood is revived.
The Louisiana Conference also will receive a $200,000 grant from UMCOR to
provide volunteer housing in Slidell and Lake Charles and at the Peoples
Community Center in New Orleans.
In Mississippi, the annual conference plans to use its $300,000 grant to
build three storm-resistant multipurpose buildings adjacent to local
churches. The buildings will be used for volunteer housing and as a
distribution center and warehouse for supplies. Frazer Memorial United
Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., also is supporting the project.
"They're creating long-term readiness," Dirdak said.
Grants approved to assist in the recovery of Katrina evacuees living outside
the region included $300,000 to the Memphis and Shelby County Community
Service Agency; $266,878 to the Center for Urban Ministries in Birmingham,
Ala.; $220,561 to Metro United Urban Methodist Ministries of San Diego; and
$200,000 to the United Methodist Memphis Conference. Those funds are in
addition to an emergency grant of $100,000 that each received earlier.
Aid to Asia, Africa
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose
A boy picks his way through streets clogged with debris following the Dec. 26, 2004, tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.
For its tsunami-related relief work in Indonesia, UMCOR has been negotiating
with the United Nations Development Program for a $3.4 million grant "to
improve the capacity of 210 local civil society organizations in 70 villages
in Aceh (province) and Nias Island to address the needs of their
Once the U.N. grant is secure, UMCOR will add nearly $1.8 million of its own
tsunami funding to pay personnel costs for trainers, mentors and evaluators
to all 70 villages. "This is the one opportunity to make a significant
difference in Nias," Dirdak told directors.
He also explained to directors that a $1.4 million grant approved last
spring for the rehabilitation of Memorial Park in Banda Aceh, Indonesia,
probably would not be used as circumstances related to the project had
changed. The money will remain in UMCOR's tsunami fund.
A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, UMCOR
Malek Wul and her children sit on a mat given to them by UMCOR to keep
them out of the mud and lessen their chances of contracting disease.
In addition, directors approved a $200,000 grant to the UMCOR-NGO Sri Lanka
office to provide emergency assistance to tsunami survivors currently
displaced by the conflict there between the government and Tamil Tigers.
UMCOR announced that a donation of wheat from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture has resulted in $4 million to support farmers and rural
residents of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The U.S. Office of Foreign Assistance is providing a $1 million grant to
improve access to water and sanitation and increase food security in the
southern Darfur region of Sudan. The agency also has received $800,000 from
the U.S. State Department for educational work in another region of Sudan.
UMCOR will contribute $200,000 to the project.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or