United Methodist volunteers spent 5.3 million hours helping Hurricane Katrina survivors in Louisiana.
After Katrina, Many Hands Make One Church
By Susan Kim*
June 5, 2012 — After seven years of intense work helping Hurricane Katrina survivors, Rev. Darryl Tate thanks God for many blessings, but first on the list is volunteers. “We could never have done this without the volunteers coming, working and giving so many hours,” said Tate, who is executive director of Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry.
Tate, who will close the doors on Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry this year, has worked himself out of a job, even though recovery does continue for some Hurricane Katrina survivors. When tallying figures to summarize his seven years of work, he adds up the number of volunteers the ministry has hosted. He arrives at a figure that astounds even him: 127,970 volunteers.
“They represented every United Methodist conference, all 50 states, and 36 countries worldwide,” he said.
Tate, who will continue to serve as disaster director of preparedness for the Louisiana conference, is also taking an appointment as pastor of the Rayville United Methodist Church in northern Louisiana.
He tears up when he talks about his gratitude for volunteers: “They gave 5.3 million volunteer hours,” he said. “It's finally hitting me now.”
Through UMCOR, United Methodists worldwide donated $26.2 million to helping Hurricane Katrina survivors in Louisiana alone.
Those generous donations have helped thousands upon thousands of people walk down the long road to recovery, said Dr. Sarah Kreutziger, a board-certified clinical social worker who volunteered to oversee the hiring of case managers for Louisiana Disaster Recovery Ministry.
“I think about, when we first started, how nothing was open,” she said. “This was a disaster in which there was massive disruption.”
Thanks in part to UMCOR-developed training, The United Methodist Church has become known in the ecumenical disaster response community as an effective deliverer of case management for disaster survivors.
In the days – which stretched to years – following Katrina, case workers helped hurricane survivors thread their way through the loops of bureaucracy on both state and federal levels, said Kreutziger.
One of the most challenging aspects of Katrina recovery was the lack of support among people who were all experiencing similar losses. “The usual resilience of people who band together in almost any crisis could not be utilized to the same extent,” she explained.
Instead, the church, acting as one body, served as a net of support for Katrina survivors, said Tate. “We could never have done this without the connectional church,” he said. “It's the best illustration of connectional United Methodism I've ever seen.”
Help The United Methodist Church connect with US disaster survivors. The 2012 Atlantic hurricane season began last Friday, June 1, and runs through November. Please give to US Disaster Response, UMCOR Advance #901670
*Susan Kim is a journalist and a regular contributor to www.UMCOR.org.