UMCOR Hurricane Sandy relief receives boost

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) was one of seven nonprofit organizations to be honored last month with a grant to advance recovery and rebuilding on Long Island following Hurricane Sandy. The grant was provided through the Hurricane Sandy Long Island Disaster Relief campaign of Newsday Charities, a Robert R. McCormick Foundation Fund.

 

Representatives of the organizations met with executives of Newsday Charities and the McCormick Foundation at the headquarters of Newsday, a Long Island newspaper, in Melville, New York. “We can’t say thank you enough,” Paul Fleishman, the paper’s vice president of Public Affairs, told them.

“We acknowledge that your job is the hardest,” he said, in responding to needs generated by the massive storm that barreled through this part of New York on October 29, bringing death and widespread destruction.

“The fact that you’re here today says a lot about your agencies,” Fleishman said, indicating that each of the organizations had passed through a rigorous granting process. “It is a measure of the confidence we have that you will do the right thing” with the grant money.

In addition to UMCOR, grantees also included FEGS, Long Island Volunteer Center, Catholic Charities, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Points of Light, and the Salvation Army.

UMCOR was represented at the meeting by US Disaster Response executive Rev. Tom Hazelwood; New York Annual Conference Disaster Response Coordinator Rev. Joseph Ewoodzie; and Long Island East District Superintendent Rev. Adrienne Brewington.

Ewoodzie spoke of the invaluable contribution to recovery made by United Methodist volunteers, “who came from all over the United States” to help in the wake of the storm.

He explained that the thorough training UMCOR supplied to the volunteers, members of Early Response Teams, prepared them to assist storm survivors with both technical expertise and the reverence due the whole person who finds herself or himself in the midst of a crisis.

“The greatest resource The United Methodist Church has is its people,” Hazelwood underscored. He said that as recovery moves forward, UMCOR will be able to continue “to feed volunteers into Long Island to assist with community rebuilding efforts.”

He thanked Newsday Charities and the McCormick Foundation for their grant to UMCOR, which, he said, “is vital and helps us to do what we might not otherwise get done.”

Fleishman asked the grantees seated around the pear-shaped conference table to identify the “gaps” or new needs they perceived as their response to Sandy unfolded over the previous months and which they felt were likely to intensify.

A list quickly emerged. It covered public health issues; trauma; a dearth of available housing; the need not only to repair and rebuild but to replicate special constructions included in many homes for aging or disabled family members; the loss of child-care and day-care facilities; the loss of employment and the re-entry into the job force of retired persons to cover the costs of repair or rebuilding their homes; and the loss of small and medium-size businesses, to name a few looming issues associated with the storm.

Comparisons of Hurricane Sandy to Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 abound, said Hazelwood, but funding levels are very different now. “Income [for relief and recovery work] is far below what it was following those two disasters. Achieving new funding and working collaboratively will be so important.”

UMCOR gratefully received a grant of $100,000 from Newsday Charities, a McCormick Foundation Fund.

*Unger is senior writer for UMCOR.

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