Newsline Extra for August 29, 2007

“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me….”

Psalm 23:4a

1) Brethren continue work in Gulf Coast two years after Katrina.
2) Children enjoy safe haven at FEMA’s Welcome Home Center.
3) Children’s Disaster Services responds to storms in midwest.
4) Grants support continuing hurricane response, aid to Iraqis.
5) Bezon hired as associate director for Children’s Disaster Services.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To receive Newsline by e-mail or to unsubscribe, go to For Church of the Brethren news online, go to, click on “News” to find a news feature and links to Brethren in the news, photo albums, conference reporting, webcasts, and the Newsline archive.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1) Brethren continue work in Gulf Coast two years after Katrina.

On the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation of the Gulf Coast, Brethren Disaster Ministries continues rebuilding work in two locations in Louisiana, the towns of Chalmette and Pearl River. “We have been asked by the local recovery groups to stay at these two locations through 2008,” reported coordinator Jane Yount. Brethren Disaster Ministries is a program of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

The other two Brethren rebuilding projects that were active this year, in the towns of Lucedale and McComb, Miss., are now closed. “We had a wonderful response for those projects, and much was accomplished,” Yount said. “In Lucedale, over 800 volunteers assisted 87 families. In McComb, about 350 volunteers served 47 families.”

The Children’s Disaster Ministries program of the Church of the Brethren also continues to provide a response in New Orleans, located at the Welcome Home Center for returning hurricane survivors (see story below). Plans are for the response to continue until mid-September when students go back to school.

A new DVD is available from the Brethren Disaster Ministries office, “The Presence of Christ: Brethren Disaster Ministries in the Gulf Coast,” illustrating what is being accomplished with Hurricane Katrina recovery–and how much still needs to be done. “Every church member should view this DVD to find out what they can do to help Katrina survivors and why, after two years, this is still so important,” said Yount. For a free copy, contact Brethren Disaster Ministries, P.O. Box 188, New Windsor, MD 21776; 800-451-4407;

The Christians of the United States have been faithful to the Gulf Coast rebuilding effort, according to a release today from the National Council of Churches (NCC). A survey of the 35 member communions in the NCC estimated those denominations and churches have sent a total of more than 120,000 volunteers to Gulf Coast areas affected by Katrina, donated 3.6 million hours in helping victims put their lives back together, and sent an estimated $250 million in financial aid to local churches and relief agencies. The survey was conducted by the NCC’s Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast.

“The task ahead is still a mammoth one. We need people to stay with us,” said Bishop Thomas Hoyt, co-chair of the Special Commission and past president of the NCC, in the release. More volunteers are needed to help people struggling all along the Gulf Coast, Hoyt said.

The release also warned of a pending housing crisis related to the trailers supplied by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The temporary housing was designed for only 18 months to two years, the release said. In a related development, NCC’s Special Commission also has asked FEMA to investigate health risks associated with some of the trailers supplied to hurricane survivors, after reports that some contained toxic levels of formaldehyde.

Brethren Disaster Ministries volunteers and project directors have been staying in trailers provided by FEMA at some rebuilding sites. The program has checked those trailers for obvious odor, and volunteers are not having symptoms of problems with formaldehyde, reported Roy Winter, director of Brethren Disaster Ministries. “We addressed this some time ago,” he reassured volunteers.

Brethren Disaster Ministries also has issued a renewed call for disaster volunteers to serve in the Gulf Coast. The program specifically needs volunteers to fill cancellations in the schedule at Pearl River the week of Sept. 9-15, and at Chalmette the week of Sept. 23-29. To volunteer, call Brethren Disaster Ministries at 800-451-4407 or contact a district disaster coordinator.

Yount also called for prayer for those affected by Hurricane Dean, which struck Jamaica and other Caribbean islands, as well as Mexico and Belize in mid-August. “We are now in the throes of hurricane season, with five named storms already,” she reminded disaster responders.

2) Children enjoy safe haven at FEMA’s Welcome Home Center.

In a small area within a center for disaster victims, five young children bubble with excitement. Three boys play ball. One girl builds houses with blocks, and another one goes to and fro between the imaginary kitchen where she makes cookies with Play-Doh and the fictitious room where she looks after a few baby dolls.

This is one of the lively backdrops that children who experienced Hurricane Katrina encounter at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s Welcome Home Center in New Orleans. A concerted endeavor to serve storm victims, the center includes a special nursery run by volunteers of Children’s Disaster Services, a ministry of the Church of the Brethren.

The volunteers, among them retired school teachers and nurses, are trained to provide a safe and comforting environment to children impacted by traumatic events. Since the opening of the multi-resource center in Jan. 2007, a total of 64 volunteers equipped with toys and games have tended to 1,997 children while their parents focused on requesting assistance.

“I like this place because the ladies here play with me,” said five-year-old Destiny Domino as she made Play-Doh cookies with a volunteer. Five-year-old Nia Rivers concurred while she tucked in the baby dolls’ clothes under the wing of another volunteer.

Both girls lost their Orleans Parish homes to Katrina and remember the day it arrived. Destiny, whose mother went to the Welcome Home Center to request funds for basic home appliances, expressed the fear she felt when her home flooded. Likewise, Nia, whose grandmother asked for assistance to buy furniture, described how upset she was when her home was destroyed and her toys along with it.

“We are here to give children comfort in a wholesome and nurturing atmosphere,” said volunteer Carolyn Guay, who worked with Nia. “That is part of the philosophy of disaster child care.”

With that in mind, FEMA brought Children’s Disaster Services to the Welcome Home Center.

“We saw the need to have Children’s Disaster Services when we noticed many people with children affected by the storm returning to the city,” said Verdie Culpepper, supervisor of the Voluntary Agency Liaison Department at the FEMA Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office. “CDS volunteers have been taking care of the children while their parents do recovery-related paperwork at the center.”

A joint effort between the city of New Orleans and FEMA, the Welcome Home Center offers a variety of resources for residents who are rebuilding their lives. The center houses FEMA, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, Louisiana Spirit, Odyssey House, the Small Business Administration, Louisiana State University, and Road Home.

“I thank people for all the time they give to aid us to come back,” said Nia’s grandmother Bernett Glasper, whose house was decimated by the flood. “It’s a long struggle, but we are working together as a family, like in this center. The community is binding together, and that is what is helping us survive.”

FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror. For more information on Louisiana disaster recovery, visit

–Gina Cortez is a Public Affairs Specialist at the US Department of Homeland Security/FEMA Louisiana Transitional Recovery Office in New Orleans. This report was taken from a FEMA press release.

3) Children’s Disaster Services responds to storms in midwest.

The American Red Cross has requested Children’s Disaster Services (formerly Disaster Child Care) volunteers to work in a shelter in Rushford in southern Minnesota, following storms and flooding across the midwest. The announcement of the response was sent Aug. 24, in an e-mail to regional coordinators for the program, by Brethren Disaster Ministries director Roy Winter. Children’s Disaster Services is a ministry of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

Trained volunteers in northern Illinois were to be contacted first, following by volunteers in Iowa and other nearby states, as Children’s Disaster Services sought a team of three for the response. “Currently the shelter only has 25 residents, but the numbers are growing. It is expected this team will transition to a service center once the shelter needs have reduced,” Winter reported.

The Red Cross also requested that Children’s Disaster Services put another team on alert for a response in Ohio, at a shelter that was housing 250 people as of last Friday. Children’s Disaster Services staff at the time were awaiting a request from that shelter.

4) Grants support continuing hurricane response, aid to Iraqis.

Seven grants totaling $116,000 have been given from two funds of the Church of the Brethren General Board. The grants from the Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) and the Global Food Crisis Fund (GFCF) support continuing rebuilding following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, aid to Iraqis affected by the war, support to Church World Service (CWS), and other disaster and hunger relief efforts.

An EDF allocation of $25,000 through CWS supports vulnerable Iraqis both in Iraq and those who have been displaced by the war. The funds will help provide nutrition, water, and sanitation, along with shipping and medical supplies and a children’s program.

The Brethren Disaster Ministries program received an additional allocation of $25,000 from the EDF to support its Hurricane Katrina rebuilding site in Chalmette, La. The funds will continue to provide travel expenses for disaster volunteers, leadership training, tools and equipment, food and housing, and some building supplies.

An EDF grant of $22,000 will help the CWS Disaster Response and Recovery Liaison team’s shift to an Emergency Response Specialist program. The funds help provide longterm recovery and aid to vulnerable communities through this newly permanent program.

A GFCF grant of $15,000 will support a water filtering system in Iraq. The allocation assists Norwegian Church Aid in equipping a hospital in Abu Al-Khasib, Iraq, with a water filtering system to provide clean water for the 85-bed hospital, as well as the area’s 200,000 residents.

A grant of $15,000 from the GFCF will go the Democratic Republic of the Congo where the money will assist CWS through Action by Churches Together to underwrite the cost of rehabilitating 15 of 40 wells. The effort will help bring safe drinking water to 8,000 households.

The sum of $10,000 from the EDF responds to a CWS appeal for southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. Flooding began there in late June, and the area has been further contaminated by an oil spill. The funds will help provide protective clothing and respirators for volunteers.

An EDF allocation of $4,000 supports the Southeast Texas Interfaith Organization, an interfaith and interracial coalition of congregations and faith-based service organizations assisting survivors of Hurricane Rita in southeast Texas. The grant will support ongoing disaster response operations at the Port Arthur Recovery Project that is managed by the organization.

5) Bezon hired as associate director for Children’s Disaster Services.

Brethren Disaster Ministries has announced the hiring of an associate director for the Children’s Disaster Services program. On Sept. 10, the program located at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., will welcome Judy Bezon as associate director. Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services are programs of the Church of the Brethren General Board.

Bezon has provided volunteer services in four rebuilding experiences, as co-leader of the Camp Hope rebuilding effort in Vancleave, Miss., as a disaster child care worker in Louisiana and Florida, as a project manager for Disaster Child Care in New Orleans, and as a site coordinator for Mississippi United Methodist Disaster Response.

She is retired from 30 years as a school psychologist in upstate New York, and has developed skills as a mediator, in sign language, in play therapy, and in conflict resolution for children.

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

Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board, or 800-323-8039 ext. 260. Jon Kobel, Joan E. McGrath, Roy Winter, and Jane Yount contributed to this report. Newsline appears every other Wednesday, with the next regularly scheduled Newsline set for Sept. 12. Other special issues may be sent as needed. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine, call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]