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NCC Special Commission monitors
Gulf Coast progress for one-year anniversary

New Orleans, August 15, 2006 "It's as if God took our blinders off," said Bishop Melvin G. Talbert, chair of the National Council of Churches' Special Commission for the Just Rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, reflecting on the devastation experienced by those living along the Gulf Coast region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

"The storm revealed the sad realities of economic and racial disparities that persist in our country. God calls us to do something to change these disparities--to see, to pray and to act on behalf of others," said Talbert.

With the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's pummeling of the Gulf Coast less than two weeks away, Talbert and members of the Special Commission are preparing to conduct a pastoral visit and tour of the region, Aug. 21-23.

"It is hard to express in words the devastation that people have experienced. Yet so many people have worked tirelessly to rebuild their lives and the lives of others," said Talbert. "Our churches have been incredibly committed and have helped sustain people when the government failed."

"It can be overwhelming because there is still so much work to be done but we are in this for as long as it takes for the region to be rebuilt," he added.

During this visit the Special Commission will monitor the progress that has been made and determine plans for future work in support of the ongoing efforts to rebuild the region. This will be the Special Commission's first official visit to the Mississippi side of the Gulf Coast and its third official visit to New Orleans.

Members of the Special Commission will meet at Rayne United Methodist Church, 3900 Charles Ave., in New Orleans starting 11 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 21. This part of the meeting will include updates from local religious leaders and Churches Supporting Churches, a program supported by NCC that seeks to help rebuild 36 destroyed or damaged churches in 12 predominantly African American neighborhoods of New Orleans.

The Special Commission will then travel to Gulfport and St. Bay Louis, Miss. to monitor progress and meet with church and community leaders before returning to New Orleans. In Mississippi, the Special Commission will visit several churches and mission sites where volunteer efforts to rebuild churches, homes and communities are underway. They will also stop along the tour for a moment of silence and prayer for the people whose lives and communities were lost last year as well as for those who continue in their plight to rebuild their lives.

A year later, bleak reports continue to be released from the region--reports that detail thousands of families still waiting for housing; ongoing problems with mold and other environmental concerns; continuing discovery of dead bodies; and, a lack of affordable housing as rental rates have more than tripled. In addition, deep concerns persist about the federal, state and local government's ability to respond rapidly and effectively should another hurricane hit.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Reporters are welcome to tour with the Special Commission. Transportation will leave New Orleans at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 22. Please contact Leslie Tune at (202) 481-6927 for more information.

Special Commission Itinerary for Tues., Aug. 22:

w 8 a.m. Leave New Orleans for Gulfport

w 9:30 a.m. Arrive in Gulfport--meet at Hansboro Presbyterian Church with religious leaders and tour devastated areas

w Noon Lunch at Coast Camp Care, the Lutheran Episcopal Services in Miss.

w 1:30 p.m. Visit Christ Episcopal Church in Bay St. Louis

w 3:30 p.m. Depart for New Orleans

NCC News contact: Dan Webster, 212.870.2252,


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