Disaster Response and Long-Term Recovery in the US

June 3, 2011

In April, tornadoes swept through the South and Southeast, killing hundreds of people and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. In the weeks after the storms, communities and relief agencies worked together to assist people as they salvaged belongings and started planning to rebuild. Now, Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the Episcopal dioceses of Alabama, North Carolina, East Carolina and East Tennessee as they help impacted communities move from immediate relief to longer-term recovery.

Katie Mears, Program Manager for Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program, has been in contact with Diocesan Disaster Coordinators and other diocesan leaders in impacted areas, providing assistance as they determine how best to use their resources to help vulnerable people make a full and sustained recovery.

While Episcopal Relief & Development has assisted with emergency relief in a number of disaster-stricken dioceses in recent weeks – providing temporary shelter, food, household goods and gas vouchers in the dioceses of West Missouri, Alabama, North Carolina and Kentucky, for example – the US Disaster Program focuses mainly on preparedness and long-term recovery.

“Episcopal churches have great organizational capacity and are really good at caring and helping people,” said Mears, “so we try to build on the resources and connections that congregations have in order to mitigate damage in case of a disaster and help the community recover afterward.”

Mears continued, “First responders generally leave after the crisis phase is over, but for local Episcopal congregations, this is home. These congregations are uniquely equipped with know-how that can help their town recover in the long term, and we want to support that as best we can.”

In addition to the tornadoes that have swept through so many areas of the country, including recently Western Massachusetts, historic floods are affecting communities that lie near the Mississippi River and its tributaries. From Louisiana to Montana, populated areas and hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland are underwater as heavy rains and melting snow overwhelm river systems. Episcopal Relief & Development has been in contact with the Episcopal dioceses of Louisiana, West Tennessee, Missouri, South Dakota, North Dakota and Montana, and is standing by to offer assistance as needed. The organization also recently supported a flood-prevention program in the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, which supported the community as they protected their town from rising waters. Episcopal Relief & Development will continue to reach out to local dioceses and partners, and work with them to assess needs and respond.

“This is a stressful time for many people,” said Mears, “but by working through local dioceses and leveraging the resources and skills of Episcopal institutions and ecumenical partners, we will be able to respond in ways that provide necessary assistance in the short term and strengthen communities in the long term.”

Please continue to pray for all those affected by disasters, for those who lost loved ones and livelihoods, and for those who are working to help communities recover.

To support these efforts, please donate to the USA Disaster Response Fund by visiting www.episcopalrelief.org, calling toll free 1.855.312.HEAL, or sending a check to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.

Episcopal Relief & Development is the international relief and development agency of the Episcopal Church and an independent 501(c)(3) organization. The agency takes its mandate from Jesus’ words found in Matthew 25. Its programs work towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Together with the worldwide Church and ecumenical partners, Episcopal Relief & Development rebuilds after disasters and empowers people by offering lasting solutions that fight poverty, hunger and disease, including HIV/AIDS and malaria.