Church Responds to Flooding in DR, Continues Child Care in California

Church of the Brethren Newsline
November 6, 2007

Brethren Disaster Ministries is planning a longterm response for the Dominican Republic and other countries affected by Tropical Storm Noel, which dumped at least 21 inches of rain and caused extensive flooding. A grant has been given from the Emergency Disaster Fund, and emergency funds have been available to mission staff Irv and Nancy Heishman in the DR, as they respond to needs among Church of the Brethren congregations there.

Children’s Disaster Services also continues its work in southern California this week, aiding children of families affected by wildfires. Children’s Disaster Services, Brethren Disaster Ministries, and the Emergency Disaster Fund are all programs of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

“We are thankful to be able to report that it appears that all of the Dominican Brethren are okay,” said the Heishmans. “We have been able to be in contact with almost all of the Dominican churches and pastors. Some of them have certainly suffered damage to their agricultural crops,” they said. “Some families were evacuated for a brief time. But at this point the pastors are reporting that they and their members weathered the storm relatively well.” One church building had a foot and a half of water in its sanctuary, the Heishmans added.

The Dominican government has reported 85 deaths from the storm and flooding, with 45 people missing, and 57 deaths were reported in Haiti. More than 58,000 people were evacuated in the DR, an estimated 14,500 homes were damaged or destroyed, and around 60,000 people were left homeless, along with extensive crop damage.

The grant of $5,000 from the Emergency Disaster Fund supports the work of Servicios Sociales de las Iglesias Dominicanas (SSID), which began an immediate response to emergency needs for drinking water, food, and shelter. SSID is a partner organization of Church World Service in the DR. “In the longterm, we will be supporting a Church World Service grant that will focus on recovery, rebuilding, and possibly agricultural losses,” said Roy Winter, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. “Further, if the Church of the Brethren in the DR has response projects, we will explore how to best support their efforts.”

Following the storm, the Heishmans began delivering a shipment of canned chicken that was prepared and donated through the Meat Canning Project of Southern Pennsylvania District and Mid-Atlantic District, and shipped by the Material Resources program at the New Windsor (Md.) Service Center. Church World Service covered the expenses for the shipment. “These boxes of chicken will be an encouragement to families in our churches as they get back to normal schedules,” the Heishmans said.

In other disaster relief news, the response of Children’s Disaster Services to the fires in southern California is winding down, according to a memo from Roy Winter and Judy Bezon, associate director of Children’s Disaster Services. “Our work in the San Diego area is expected to close down at the end of the week, but continues today in two locations,” the memo said. “In San Bernardino area, the response at the Orange Show fairgrounds closed yesterday.”

Gloria Cooper, project manager for the response, reported that Children’s Disaster Services also is providing a short-term response this week at the Lady of the Lake Catholic Church in Arrowhead, where volunteers will help care for children of affected families for a few days. The church is not a Red Cross or FEMA site, but is focused on ministering to marginalized people who are afraid to go where FEMA may be located. Children’s Disaster Services volunteers also plan to work tomorrow at a FEMA Disaster Assistance Center in Running Springs, as the county distributes food stamps. “They expect a very busy day,” Cooper said.

“I continue to be very thankful and amazed at the response of everyone in southern California,” Winter said. “Of the nearly 30 responders, only three people traveled from out of state, from Oregon. When we are finished, this group will have worked in at least seven different centers. Much of this response was made possible because of the early assessment work and organization of the Southern California Rapid Response Team.” The rapid response team was led by Sharon Gilbert.

The Emergency Disaster Fund gave two grants related to the California fires: $5,000 to support the work of Children’s Disaster Services; and $5,000 in response to a Church World Service appeal for material aid, deploying staff to help with training, support of a longterm recovery process, and support to vulnerable communities.

Gifts to these emergency response efforts should be sent to the Emergency Disaster Fund, Church of the Brethren General Board, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120. While undesignated gifts are the most helpful, donors may choose to earmark donations for “Tropical Storm Noel” or “Children’s Disaster Services.”

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. Irv and Nancy Heishman, Jon Kobel, and Roy Winter contributed to this report. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. To receive Newsline by e-mail go to http://listserver.emountain.net/mailman/listinfo/newsline. Submit news to the editor at cobnews@brethren.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.