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Relief agency calls for supplies; teams help storm-stricken areas

 


Relief agency calls for supplies; teams help storm-stricken areas

Sept. 9, 2005

By United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Church’s relief agency says an urgent need remains for hurricane-relief supplies at its distribution center in Louisiana.

The Sager Brown Depot no longer needs donations of bottled water, but other items are in short supply, including health kits, school kits, new sets of twin sheets, new pillows, new blankets and new air mattresses. The United Methodist Committee on Relief uses the depot in Baldwin, La., for processing aid supplies to points around the world.

The depot has set up a call center and is contacting shelters and other facilities handling hurricane evacuees to inquire about their need for supplies, according to Gwen Redding, executive director. The depot also will dispatch supplies, upon request, to the denomination’s annual conferences, she said. Such requests usually come through the conference disaster response coordinator.

As of Sept. 8, UMCOR had received just more than $2 million in online and telephone contributions for Hurricane Katrina relief. That figure did not include donations made by mail or through offerings given to local churches.

Indian conference responds

United Methodist churches, annual (regional) conferences, agencies and individuals are responding in many ways to the crisis left behind by Hurricane Katrina, which struck Louisiana and Mississippi Aug. 29.

For example, the church’s Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference is working to assist Hurricane Katrina survivors both within that state and in the Gulf region.

The conference’s first work team, about a dozen people, left Sept. 7 for the Biloxi, Miss., area, according to Phillis McCarty, conference disaster coordinator. "We felt like we wanted to do something to help," she said. "We’ve got at least two work teams lined up and maybe more."

Conference members also are "playing a huge role" in providing services at Camp Gruber, a former military facility near Muskogee, where more than 1,400 people displaced by Hurricane Katrina are being housed, according to the Rev. David Wilson, conference superintendent.

State Rep. Barbara Staggs, D-Muskogee, told the Muskogee Phoenix that the evacuees, who arrived Sept. 3, could be there as long as a year. Some 272 school-age children will attend area schools.

Eight pastors were providing support at the camp, including counseling services. The Rev. Anita Phillips, pastor of Fife Memorial United Methodist Church and dean of students at Bacone College in Muskogee, is leading that response.

Wilson also has met with residents of small towns in southeast Oklahoma that are receiving more displaced persons and who may use United Methodist sites for evacuees.

The Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference works among Native Americans in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas and includes 39 tribes and 89 local churches.

Women focus on poverty

Lois Dauway, an executive with the Women’s Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, is encouraging United Methodist Women to work ecumenically to address some of the deep root causes that victimized people during Hurricane Katrina.

"We should be responding with our time and charity," Dauway said. "But it’s also time to respond so that such devastation doesn’t happen the next time a tragedy occurs. We need to ensure systems are in place so our most vulnerable are protected. We need to find solutions for poverty, racism and other injustices so the ‘have-nots’ are not left behind during devastation."

To advocate effectively, she added, United Methodist Women need to lift voices with others of faith, such as through the organization "Faith Voices for the Common Good."

The organization is urging people to call their U.S. senators and congressional representatives at (800) 426-8073 to protest the fact that congressional committees have instructions to cut $35 billion from mandatory programs by Sept. 16. Programs assisting the poor, elderly and disabled that are facing cuts include Medicaid, Food Stamps, Medicare, the Earned Income Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (welfare) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

Bishop speaks on DVD

In response to the hurricane, Bishop John R. Schol released a pastoral message on DVD to the 692 churches throughout the denomination’s Baltimore-Washington Annual (regional) Conference. The conference said it believed this was the first time a bishop had spoken to every United Methodist in the churches in his or her area on the same day.

During the six-minute pastoral talk, Schol informed people about the scope of the disaster for United Methodists, outlined a number of ways to provide assistance, spoke about the suffering so many are experiencing and asked people who couldn’t become directly involved in disaster relief to be active in their own communities in honor of the victims.

"It was a wonderful opportunity for the leader of our church to connect directly with the people in the pews during a crisis. He was able to hold their hand electronically, if you will," said Tom Price, director of conference youth ministries. The DVD was produced by the Conference Council on Youth Ministry "News," a ministry of the CCYM.

Board arranges crisis hotline  

The United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits said it had arranged with United Behavioral Health to provide free access to a toll-free, 24-hour crisis hotline to anyone affected by the hurricane. The number is (866) 615-8700.

Callers can speak with counselors for help with emotional issues they may be experiencing and to receive referrals from a national database of community resources covering a range of concerns, including financial and legal issues. Callers who have suffered physical trauma will be transferred to a nurse who will be able to provide health information and decision support regarding the need for medical treatment. United Behavioral Health is also offering resources and information on disaster relief assistance on www.liveandworkwell.com.

The board also is allowing participants in the affected areas who are in the Personal Investment Plan to obtain a hardship withdrawal or loan for disaster-related expenses. Affected participants can contact the board at (800) 851-2201 for details.

The agency has arranged through its pharmacy provider, Medco, to waive the prescription drug mail-order refill requirement for HealthFlex participants in the affected areas. Participants can get a supply of their prescriptions from a local retail pharmacy without paying the usual co-payment. For information, call (800) 841-2806.

How to help UMCOR

Donations to support the United Methodist hurricane response can be made online at www.methodistrelief.org and by phone at (800) 554-8583. Checks can be written to UMCOR, designated for "Hurricanes 2005 Global," Advance No. 982523, and left in offering plates or mailed to UMCOR, P.O. Box 9068, New York, NY 10087-9068.

Information on health kits and school kits can be found on the UMCOR Web site, http://gbgm-umc.org/umcor/print/kits/. Other information on packing and shipping can be found at that site or by calling the Sager Brown Depot at (800) 814-8765.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759, or Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470. E-mail: newsdesk@umcom.org.

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