UMCOR grants bolster community centers on Gulf Coast


(UMNS) - Three United Methodist community centers on the Gulf Coast that are still struggling to recover from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita as they assist area residents will receive additional assistance from the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

The Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR's chief executive, noted that the Gulf Coast community centers, which are owned by the board's Women's Division and relate to its community and institutional ministries unit, provide a backbone of support, especially for the poor. "The idea is to bring these institutions back into social service," he said.

At Moore Community House in Biloxi, Miss., eight buildings and three playgrounds were destroyed by Katrina. A $392,437 grant will allow the rebuilding of the child development center, playground, and offices. Child care for children under 5 years old has been identified as a high-priority unmet need in the area.

Grants to the Louisiana Annual Conference will allow the expansion of the Dulac Community Center and the rehabilitation of St. Mark's Community Center. The Louisiana Conference also will receive a $200,000 grant from UMCOR to provide volunteer housing in Slidell and Lake Charles and at the Peoples Community Center in New Orleans.

In Mississippi, the annual conference plans to use its $300,000 grant to build three storm-resistant multipurpose buildings adjacent to local churches. The buildings will be used for volunteer housing and as distribution centers and warehouses for supplies. Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., also is supporting the project.

"They're creating long-term readiness," Dirdak said.

Grants approved to assist in the recovery of Katrina evacuees living outside the region included  $300,000 to the Memphis and Shelby County Community Service Agency; $266,878 to the Center for Urban Ministries in Birmingham, Ala.; $220,561 to Metro United Urban Methodist Ministries of San Diego; and $200,000 to the Memphis Annual Conference. Those funds are in addition to an emergency grant of $100,000 that each received earlier.

UMCOR directors approved the funding during the Oct. 9-12 annual meeting of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, UMCOR's parent agency, in Stamford, Conn.