Episcopal Relief & Development partners with Louisiana dioceses on storm response

Posted Mar 17, 2016

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development is supporting the response efforts of the Episcopal dioceses of Louisiana and Western Louisiana following storms that knocked out power and caused widespread flooding across the state. Both dioceses are working through local churches and community ministries to care for vulnerable people and assist with needs such as food, fuel, temporary housing and supplies to clean and repair damaged homes and other property.

“The churches in Louisiana and Western Louisiana have been incredibly resourceful and thoughtful about assembling their flood responses,” said Katie Mears, director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s U.S. Disaster Program. “They have done a fantastic job of identifying where they have local connections or community resources that can be used to assist people in need.”

The early March storm system began in the Gulf of Mexico and caused a series of tornadoes in Texas before moving east and settling over northern Louisiana, where it dumped up to 24 inches of rain over a five-day period. In southern Louisiana, the area north of Lake Ponchartrain received between 12 and 17 inches of rain in less than 24 hours over March 10-11. Flash flooding was widespread, and rivers reached 10-20 feet above flood stage, swamping areas as far as a mile on either side and damaging vehicles and property. Thousands of people evacuated or were rescued from their homes, often by boat as roads became impassable. At least six people died across the region due to the storms.

In the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, congregations in Hammond, Covington and Bogalusa are leveraging ministries, relationships and community resources to aid those in need. In Hammond, Grace Memorial Episcopal Church’s ongoing ministry with Meals on Wheels enabled quick assessment of 30 elderly households, and support from Episcopal Relief & Development enabled the church to provide tarps and other materials to prevent further home damage. Christ Church in Covington is able to offer assistance and referrals to community services because of their connections through programs that serve at-risk children. St. Matthew’s in Bogalusa has mobilized members with deep community relationships to help assemble a list of families with outstanding needs, in order to supply gift cards for food, fuel and repairs. Christ Church is also working with the Bogalusa paper mill’s employee assistance coordinator to identify additional families in need of temporary housing and other aid.

“We have churches throughout the flooded area – active, engaged congregations with good leadership,” said Deacon Elaine Clements, Disaster Coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana. “The new senior warden of St. Matthew’s is an attorney in town who has been working with the mayor’s office on rescue and relief, and the congregation in Hammond has a member who is a social worker and is connected to community organizations. It’s hard to overstate how vital our members and relationships are in disaster response.”

In the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana, church leaders have aided local officials by assessing the needs of residents around their parishes. The primary needs are for cleaning and repair supplies, as well as temporary housing for those whose homes are not currently livable. Day shelters for homeless individuals in Shreveport and Monroe, which are supported by local Episcopal churches, are able to assist those who are temporarily without housing, as well as provide outreach to regular clients who may be experiencing greater vulnerability due to the storm. Stephen’s Ministries in several congregations are able to assist displaced people with emotional support and pastoral care.

“Our clergy and parishioners have been incredibly helpful in communicating and coordinating with local government and disaster response agencies,” said Deacon Lois Maberry, disaster coordinator for the Episcopal Diocese of Western Louisiana. “This has allowed individuals to be directed to community resources that are offering aid, helping them to cope with this tragedy.”

Episcopal Relief & Development will continue to work with dioceses across the impacted region to assess how church resources and connections can be leveraged to aid those most vulnerable.

Please pray for people impacted by these most recent storms, and for those who are providing urgently needed care and assistance. To support Episcopal Relief & Development’s response, please donate to the US Disaster Response Fund.