Disaster Relief

THANK YOU, THANK YOU!! We received $890 during the month of January for OGHS relief for Haiti. This is unprecedented for us. We support the OGHS offering every year, but this year has been phenomenal and you deserve a big pat on the back for your generosity. The pictures of destruction and devastation in Haiti came too close to home. We often think that such desolation only happens half a globe away – to those on the other side of the world. This reality check has been significant, but only shows the tip of the iceberg.
Through our OGHS offering, we support UCC initiatives around the world and in our own “back yard.” Since the Haiti earthquake, many people asked about volunteering on site. As the coordinator for recovery, Church World Service, suggested that the need for kits, baby and hygiene, were more appropriate at this time. And so we sent 26 hygiene kits and more are being assembled.
Seeing the desire of many people who wanted to do more hands-on work, the United Church of Christ and Church World Service have partnered to rebuild homes in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. On June 14, 2008, the Cedar River overran its banks and inundated Cedar Rapids, demolishing the city, including its oldest neighborhood, Time Check. In all, 5,390 homes were destroyed by the flood and a series of tornadoes which preceded it. CWS has organized an “ecu-build”, an ecumenical rebuilding project, named Neighborhood: Cedar Rapids to replicate their Neighborhood: New Orleans project. All too often, after the headlines are gone, the people and their needs are forgotten. “The disasters here in Iowa have fallen off the radar screen for many people but the needs are still great,” said Rev. Michael Stadie, disaster response manager for Lutheran Services in Iowa. “The economic crisis and other disasters have drawn attention elsewhere.” CWS and its partner organizations, including the UCC, attempt to keep eyes focused on needs that have not been met. Neighborhood: Cedar Rapids will bring together volunteers from at least 10 agencies from April 12 to May 21, 2010.
Cedar Rapids is not the only recipient of aid from our OGHS offerings. Butler County, Indiana; Terre Haute, Indiana; Martinsville, Indiana; and Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery in Northwest Indiana are also hosting disaster recovery trips.
An ice storm on January 22, 2010, brought down 6,000 utility poles which provided electricity for the Cheyenne River Lakota Reservation in South Dakota. Many had no heat or electricity and, eventually, no water when the water treatment plant lost power. The UCC South Dakota Conference responded with donations which included $3,000 from OGHS. These donations set up shelters and provided supplies to their wide-spread residents. The reservation has approximately 2 million acres and many of the Lakota live in outlying rural areas. In his February 4, 2010, report to the UCC, Pastor Louie Blue Coat advised that the communities of On-The-Trees, Green Grass and White Horse were still dark and without water. Even so, he wrote, “We are most appreciative and humble-hearted at the outpouring of financial assistance that has come, not just to the Dakota Association, but also to the Cheyenne River Lakota Tribe. We, as an association of churches, recognize that Christ is at work among us, even during our trials and tribulations. It is friends such as you that put Christ into action and enable us to take that message out to those who are suffering, feeling hopeless, needing help and finding that help through our ministry….In our Lakota language, “Lila Wopila,” or (many thanks)! Your love and generosity cannot be repaid, but will never be forgotten. You will be in our hearts and prayers and we ask that our Creator bless each and every one of you.”
In September 2009, torrential downpours swelled creeks and rivers in many Georgia communities. In a report on the UCC website dated September 24, 2009, the UCC noted: “The UCC in partnership with CWS has a commitment to respond to technology caused disaster which includes what happens in natural disasters. Contaminated flood waters have damaged homes. The focus in Georgia in this immediate time is, of course, health and safety for volunteers and home owners cleaning out their homes. 750 Tyvek suits and 750 pairs of goggles are being sent from the UCC; along with 1,500 N95 respirators and 4,600 pairs of latex gloves from CWS to the area affected by the floods. These items will provide some protection during clean up.” As many as 3,000 homes were damaged, but assessments needed to wait until the flood waters receded.
As these stories show, disaster relief is not a one-shot deal. The effects of a disaster linger on much longer than the news reports about them. By contributing to OGHS, we support those who provide aid response and volunteer their efforts to rebuild communities and restore the lives of victims. For more detailed information or to volunteer, go to our UCC website – ucc.org. There you will find many areas for volunteering by clicking Change the World → Disaster Response. There is still need – here at home and around the world.

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