“Celebrating the Church of the Brethren’s 300th Anniversary in 2008″
(Sept. 8, 2008) — As Hurricane Gustav made landfall and the Atlantic heated up with more potentially dangerous storms, Roy Winter, executive director for Brethren Disaster Ministries (BDM), made an early departure from the National Older Adult Conference at Lake Junaluska, N.C. He drove to Hattiesburg, Miss., arriving on Wednesday, to manage the Children’s Disaster Services response on the ground in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Winter is collaborating with the American Red Cross to determine where Children’s Disaster Services volunteers will be most needed in coming days. Staff at the disaster response offices in New Windsor, Md., including Children’s Disaster Services director Judy Bezon, and coordinator LethaJoy Martin, have been keep the operation going by deploying volunteers, communicating with the Red Cross or FEMA, and trouble-shooting issues at the various child care sites as they arise.
The Red Cross has opened shelters on the Gulf Coast for evacuees who cannot return to their homes. Shelters are opened as evacuees move back into the area. As people return to their homes and shelters are closed or consolidated, Disaster Assistance Centers will open closer to the coast. It is expected that Children’s Disaster Services volunteers will set up child care centers in Disaster Assistance Centers in Louisiana and/or Mississippi.
Staff are also working out plans for current teams of caregivers responding in Shreveport and Alexandria, La. As of Sept. 5, six childcare volunteers were working in shelters on the Mississippi coast; 10 were working in a Super Shelter in Shreveport; and 11 were working in a Super Shelter in Alexandria.
The shelter in Alexandria lost water and air conditioning early last week, so caregivers had to take turns using a hotel room to get a hot shower, reported Bezon. “It’s a tough situation (in the shelter), putting people on edge and making it harder for parents to cope,” she said. “Our volunteers are holding up well, considering the difficult circumstances in which they are working. Reinforcements are being sent in to give some relief.”
Meanwhile, Hurricane Ike developed into a powerful storm that devastated parts of Cuba over the weekend. The forecast track indicates that this storm may threaten Texas or Louisiana in coming days.
In other disaster response news, Zach Wolgemuth, associate director of Brethren Disaster Ministries, visited flood areas in Minnesota and Iowa last week. He first stopped at the Brethren Disaster Ministries rebuilding project in Rushford, Minn., where volunteers have nearly completed the first three homes, and have just finished drywall on a fourth house. The slab is expected to be poured for a fifth house this week. Brethren Disaster Ministries plans to completely rebuild seven new homes for flood survivors in Rushford by the end of this year. In addition, volunteers have repaired more than 30 homes in the Rushford area since the project opened, following the flash floods of Aug. 2007.
In Iowa, which suffered severe floods and tornadoes this spring, Wolgemuth met with Northern Plains District executive minister Tim Button-Harrison and the district’s disaster response coordinator Gary Gahm, offering resources to aid the district’s response to needs as they arise.
–Jane Yount is coordinator of Brethren Disaster Ministries.
The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren General Board. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.