The heart of Week of Compassion is partnership. In the critical work of domestic disaster response, local congregations, Regional Ministries, Disciples Volunteering, and the hard working short-term and long-term volunteers bring care, compassion, and hard work to countless communities affected by disaster.
Another faithful partner, Church World Service, has been an essential partner in the work of long-term recovery. Week of Compassion support of CWS’s domestic disaster response work helps local long-term recovery groups bring together faith-based and other community partners to identify disaster survivors most in need of assistance and to help them pull together public and private resources to put their homes and lives back together after great loss.
In 2013, your generosity to Week of Compassion made a significant impact in communities recovering from disasters, as CWS provided $123,300 to 25 long-term recovery groups from Arizona to New Jersey responding to tornados, floods, hurricanes and wildfires. Here are some examples of what you have helped to do around North America:
ARIZONA: The average age of Yarnell, Arizona’s 1,200 residents is 64 and the average annual income less than $16,000. Last summer’s Yarnell Hill wildfire forced the evacuation of the entire town for a week. Some 122 homes were burned. Between 150 and 200 people remain in need of recovery assistance, said Frances Lechner, communications director for the Yarnell Hill Recovery Group.
With a grant from CWS, the group is securing an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for a year. That person’s assignment: to establish an information and referral service to fill a serious communications gap that was revealed during recovery efforts – how to get information out to Yarnell’s many residents who do not use the internet.
“With a senior population that is largely low-income, the preferred method of communication is telephone or stopping by in person,” Lechner said. “An information and referral service will provide a personal connection using all appropriate technologies.”
LOUISIANA: The St. John the Baptist Parish, Louisiana, Long-Term Recovery Group is helping hundreds of underinsured homeowners following Hurricane Isaac. They have used a recovery grant to cover administrative costs such as office utilities, supplies and essential personnel at its Volunteer Reception Center in LaPlace.
NEW JERSEY: Long-term recovery groups across New Jersey are helping Superstorm Sandy survivors. A CWS grant helped the Bergen County Volunteer Organizations Active in a Disaster (VOAD) Long-Term Recovery Committee to “launch a real long-term recovery project,” said Janet Sharma, Executive Director, Volunteer Center of Bergen County, Hackensack, New Jersey. “Hurricane Sandy generated significant outpourings of funds,” Sharma added, “but it was those CWS funds, given before just about anyone else, that helped us get our feet on the ground.”
IOWA: When Bill Recker and Carma Agan lost their Buck Creek, Iowa, home to flash flooding in June 2013, they would have faced a lonely struggle to recover if it weren’t for the Delaware County Disaster Recovery Committee. CWS approved $5,000 for the committee, which used it to purchase essential household appliances for this and another flood-affected household.
SOUTH DAKOTA: In October 2013, an unprecedented week-long ice storm and blizzard across western South Dakota resulted in widespread property damage and the uninsured loss of more than 43,000 head of livestock. Many areas were without electricity for ten days or longer. The South Dakota VOAD Committee immediately began to coordinate volunteer clean-up efforts and assist households with unmet needs.
A CWS grant of $3,300 is helping people who have uninsured damage to their homes that can’t be fixed through volunteer help, reported Kathy Bangasser of Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. This grant was first awarded following a Spring 2013 weather disaster in eastern South Dakota. But, because those needs have now been fully met with local resources, CWS has agreed to direct its grant toward the unmet needs in western South Dakota towns.
MONTANA: Musselshell County, Montana, suffered floods in May 2011 and the Delphia wildfire in August 2012. The disasters especially affected undocumented residents, rural and agricultural populations and low-income people. The fire claimed 72 homes in the town of Roundup. A $5,000 CWS grant has helped the team “help 20 families in various ways, from clean-up to cutting and removing burned trees,” reported Tammy Zemliska, Volunteer Coordinator for the Musselshell County Recovery Team.
Extreme weather has already made 2014 news, with record-setting cold affecting much of the country, a drought affecting much of California, and snow and ice settling in to many areas. Week of Compassion is grateful for the disaster recovery work of CWS and for supporters like you in responding to the “expected unexpected” that so often turns communities upside down. We stand together—ready to respond--if we are needed!
Thanks be to God!