Hurricanes 2005: 60,000 helped at 2-year mark


By United Methodist News Service

Nearly 60,000 individuals have received United Methodist assistance during long-term recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast, according to a  report issued Aug. 22 by United Methodist Committee on Relief.  

“Serving Survivors” summarizes United Methodist response to the unprecedented wind and water damage from several large hurricanes in 2005 — Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma.  

“We’re at the two-year mark in our five-year plan of long-term recovery work,” said the Rev. Sam W. Dixon, UMCOR interim executive.  

Multiple uses for record gifts

Issued two years into the response, and near the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, the new report details the disbursement of the funds and quantitative results of the assistance to families and individuals in the Gulf Coast as well as international aid. In partnership with annual conferences from Texas to Florida, UMCOR has supplied direct assistance and established disaster organizations to assist with long term recovery.  

Funds were also disbursed to local agencies and institutions to serve vulnerable populations. Additional funds were used in training and support ministries to establish and sustain case management staff. International partners helping to restore livelihoods of vulnerable farmer populations in Guatemala and Nicaragua also received grants.

The 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, the most active in recorded history, spawned 28 named storms, 15 of which became hurricanes, including Katrina, the costliest ever. After the storms, donors to the United Methodist Committee on Relief “Hurricanes of 2005” appeal responded with record gifts to assist those affected. The total giving, over $66 million, was the highest ever given to an UMCOR Advance. 

UMCOR focuses on a case management approach to long-term recovery, a robust form of recovery considered “best practice” in the field, said Dixon. Through case management, a family writes their own recovery plan and works with a caring case manager to implement their recovery. Cash assistance is provided for such needs as replacement clothing, medical and school fees, rent, mortgage payments, and home repair materials. 

Rebuilds, improvements outpace others

Sixty-three percent of the disbursed funds have gone to the five annual conferences along the Gulf Coast where multiple storms struck: Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama-West Florida and Florida. With UMCOR assistance, all five have effective organizations. Disbursements have been used for initial relief, cash assistance, case management, and rebuilding. 

Some 25,000 total and partial rebuilds have been done. The July 20 edition of USA Today said UMCOR home improvement efforts outpaced any other agency working in the Gulf Coast region. United Methodists represented the third largest contingent of volunteer workers in the region, according to USA Today. Rebuilding continues in the region, and disaster organizations will be actively seeking volunteer teams for years to come. 

Twenty percent of the funds have gone to other grass-roots organizations serving vulnerable populations. These agencies serve the most vulnerable in the Gulf Coast as well as persons in other states outside the region. 

Funds have also been used to establish and develop the system needed to support and sustain long-term recovery, UMCOR’s specialty. UMCOR Sager Brown, in Baldwin, La., played an active role in the responses, shipping an estimated $7.6 million of in-kind donations during the emergency and relief phases. Items included supplies, water, shovels and flood buckets.