ELCA NEWS SERVICE
May 25, 2007
Lutherans Make Transition in Volunteer Hospitality Along U.S. Gulf Coast
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) is committed to the long-term recovery of the U.S. Gulf Coast in the years to come, and a key transition in LDR's operation toward volunteer hospitality will help ensure that commitment, according to Heather L. Feltman, executive director of LDR -- a collaborative ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The 2005 hurricane season yielded 26 "named storms," 15 of which were hurricanes that caused total insured losses of more than $47 billion. Among the most powerful storms were Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma, which caused widespread destruction in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
"We have coordinated more than 1.3 million hours of volunteer service along the Gulf Coast," said Feltman. She said LDR, in partnership with its local affiliates and congregations, established several temporary volunteer camps along the Gulf Coast.
"Generally our volunteers are relatively self-sufficient, arranging their own housing and meals when assisting communities in response to a disaster. Given the widespread destruction after Hurricane Katrina and Rita, this sort of self-sufficiency simply was not possible," she said.
As communities along the coast continue to rebuild, many areas have recovered enough to assume the role of providing hospitality to incoming volunteer teams, said Feltman. "As an avenue of further empowering and equipping these local communities, LDR will pass on the role of providing hospitality for volunteers to congregations, organizations and businesses," she said.
"Several of the existing camps may remain open through partnerships among congregations and local recovery organizations, housing and feeding volunteer crews for a nominal fee," Feltman reported. "Information about these sites will be provided to prospective volunteers, so that they can be connected to and support local congregations during their time on the coast. Volunteers are also welcome to stay in motels or campgrounds," she said.
"Most importantly, please understand that this transition does not mark the end of our response to the 2005 hurricanes. In accordance with our mission to provide long-term holistic support for disaster survivors, we will continue to coordinate volunteer assistance in the rebuilding of the devastated region. This transition will allow volunteers to support rebuilding communities and will help further the impact of donated monies and extend the crucial work of Lutheran Disaster Response along the Gulf Coast for years to come," said Feltman.
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Audio of Feltman's comments is available at http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/070524.mp3 on the ELCA Web site.
Volunteer information is available at http://www.ldr.org/volunteer on the Internet.
Editors: When listing organizations receiving funds to aid survivors of major disasters inside the United States, Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, please include:
ELCA Domestic Disaster Response, P.O. Box 71764, Chicago, Illinois 60694-1764
Credit card gift line: 1-800-638-3522
Credit card gifts via Internet: http://www.ELCA.org/disaster/
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