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Giving to faith communities assures response to disasters

By Marijke Fakasiieiki

Faith communities, along with the American Red Cross, launch hurricane disaster relief funds as part of their ongoing response to humanitarian needs. With hurricanes affecting Florida, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Bermuda and Canada, relief agencies of various faiths have emergency appeals to help with response and recovery.

The Florida United Church of Christ (UCC) Conference minister checked congregations for immediate needs. Its "Hurricanes 2022" appeal helps those impacted by Fiona, Ian and others. Nationally, Karen Georgia Thompson, associate general minister for the UCC Wider Church Ministries (WCM), said, "We continue to respond with partners to support emerging needs of those whose lives have been disrupted and begin the long-term journey to rebuild."

WCM's Global HOPE team initially sent $20,000 to its partner church, Iglesia Evangélica Unida de Puerto Rico (IEUdePR), after Fiona. Delivery of food, drinking water and medical supplies was hindered by downed trees, mudslides and washed-out bridges. Homes were severely damaged. UCC grants assist with immediate needs while infrastructure is repaired and assessments are made.


Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) contacted presbyteries and the synod of Puerto Rico, and partners in the Dominican Republic, distributing initial aid and committed to work for the long-haul.

Mike Bullard of Coeur d'Alene works with PDA. He said many in Puerto Rico and the Southeast are still without power for hospitals, food storage or heat relief. From helping in Fort Myers after Hurricane Irma in 2019, he knows the PDA is helping presbyteries and partners assess the aftermath of Ian and offer resources.


United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR)'s Disaster Response and Recovery is ready to respond to disasters with ongoing local church donations that provide training, funds, expertise and collaboration so communities are more resilient in disasters.

A United Methodist grant to the Florida Annual Conference will address immediate needs. Lara Martin, UMCOR's disaster response director, traveled to Florida six days after the storm to meet with conference leaders.

Contact: Advance #901670.

Church World Service (CWS) helps many U.S. denominations pool resources for a greater impact in disasters, refugee resettlement and development work. It invites people to engage with national and state Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs) for local response to monitor needs. CWS provides supplies, kits, blankets and assistance with basic needs.


American Jewish World Service offers immediate humanitarian relief to people on the front lines. Then they help with "long-term support—so the hardest hit communities can recover while building more just and equitable societies."


Catholic Charities is the primary Catholic agency serving domestic disasters in the U.S. like Hurricane Ian. It supports emergency needs, such as water, food, shelter, medical care and long-term recovery efforts.


Episcopal Relief & Development (ERD) partners with the Diocese of Southwest Florida to provide supplies and funds to help communities buy gas, groceries, blankets, sleeping bags and  food and to assist unhoused people and storm survivors. Lura Steele, program officer for ERD, said, that in recent years, the Florida dioceses have prepared, so they can quickly assist where help is most needed in the short term and long term,

Aid is also being sent to Episcopal and Anglican partners in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos in response to Fiona.


The Assembly of God coordinates with local churches to respond to disasters. Along with offering prayers, Doug Clay, general superintendent, noted that they can respond swiftly because they partner with Convoy of Hope, which deployed teams immediately in a multi-million-dollar response.


The Church of the Nazarene's Compassionate Ministries offers assistance in relief efforts through local churches, which have the support of the global church's funds. Technical support comes from partnerships of churches, organizations and governments to meet immediate needs and provide long-term, holistic care addressing physical, economic and spiritual needs.


ICNA Relief USA, a Muslim relief organization, monitors the situation in Puerto Rico and works with national, regional and local partners.

In Florida, it connects with women's transitional homes, domestic abuse shelters, food pantries and mobile health clinics. Mohamed Dahsheh, director of disaster relief services, said they provided 500 hot meals a day for the first 10 days.

For communities in Florida they provide mobile health clinics, food and hot meals, and repair homes. With most damage from flooding, teams are helping with debris and fallen trees, gutting drywall and floors, and taking out wet furniture and anything that could mold.


The American Red Cross Greater Inland Northwest, said Ryan Rodin, executive director, and its partners provided 27,000 overnight stays for more than 6,600 residents in more than 70 emergency shelters in Florida. More than 125 emergency response vehicles, feeding vans and relief supplies from around the country arrived.

From the 15-county chapter in the Pacific Northwest, there are 10 volunteers in Florida, with more planning to go, said Ryan.

In response to Fiona, there are about 300 Red Cross volunteers there providing supplies and assessing damage. They provided 17,000 relief items, buckets, rakes and mops to nearly 3,000 households.


Copyright@ The Fig Tree, November 2022