CWS-supported recovery groups highlighted in report praising Katrina recovery work

Report beckons emergency planners to better utilize faith-based & community organizations

Rev. Alan Coe
In New Orleans, the Rev. Alan Coe, UCC Minister for Disaster Recovery, discusses how congregations from across his denomination continue to send work teams to help families repair their Katrina-damaged homes.  He coordinates their visits, in cooperation with local long-term recovery organizations.  Believing that it's important to work ecumenically, Coe is encouraging participation this spring in the CWS-spearheaded Neighborhood: New Orleans rebuilding push in the Little Wood neighborhood, in partnership with the Crescent Alliance Recovery Effort.
Photo: R. Hughes/CWS
NEW YORK - A major assessment of the work of faith-based and community organizations following Hurricane Katrina is a strong endorsement of the community-based long-term recovery approach championed by international humanitarian aid agency Church World Service.

“Our philosophy has always been that a community should determine how it will recover,” says Bonnie Vollmering, CWS associate director for domestic emergency response. “With faith-based and other local organizations at the table, local long-term recovery groups are the best way for a community to make sure everyone has a chance to recover.”

The Urban Institute report enacts case studies of two CWS-backed recovery groups: the Greater New Orleans Disaster Recovery Partnership and Vermilion Faith Community of Care.

GNODRP assembles 90 social service agencies in the New Orleans area that engage in Katrina recovery work, making sure cases of unmet needs from Katrina’s destruction are addressed. The New Orleans group also operates a warehouse where material goods can be stored and distributed to its member agencies.

The report praises GNODRP for identifying that funding for Katrina responses were running out, and casework needed expedition. “In response, GNODRP created a single presentation package for funders; as a result, the long-term recovery structures funded and closed as many cases in six months as they had in the two previous years,” the report states.

Even before Katrina, CWS helped found the Vermilion Faith Community of Care in response to Hurricane Lili’s destruction in southwestern Louisiana in 2002. The report highlights the group as an example of how long-term recovery groups should be engaged in disaster preparedness. “The maintenance of communication enabled VFCC to become a critical source of coordination and distribution when Katrina evacuees arrived in Vermilion Parish in 2005,” the report states. “Working with the Clerk of Court, it helped distribute donated goods throughout the parish and from a distribution center set up in a local church….When Rita forced parish residents and Katrina evacuees to evacuate, VFCC, working with local shelters, distributed $4,350 (in $20 to $50 increments) to Katrina families for travel expenses.”

“Long-term recovery groups are designed to function long after attention to a disaster has faded,” Vollmering said. “What has helped these groups and more than a hundred others we’ve worked with over the years are a concern for the well-being of others, and training on how best to go about it. Caring people are found in ever community, we just help them put their concern to work.”


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