1998 NCC News Archives

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as ecumenical ship, serving the world

CWS Responds to "March Madness"
and Recent U.S. Storms and Floods

Who We Are:

CWS works in more than 70 countries, including the U.S., in disaster relief, human development and refugee assistance. It is a ministry of the National Council of Churches, the nation’s preeminent ecumenical organization which includes 34 Protestant and Orthodox member communions with a combined membership of nearly 52 million.

How to Help:

Contributions may be directed to CHURCH WORLD SERVICE, Attn. 1998 Spring Storms and Floods, #976230, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515. Phone pledges or credit card donations: 1-800-762-0968.

NEW YORK, NY, April 2, 1998 ---- Church World Service (CWS) disaster response consultants are developing a faith-based response to an unusally concentrated and deadly wave of storms, floods and tornadoes that have struck communities in the South and Midwest. Since February, more than 100 people have been killed in storm-related damage in nine southern states.

CWS is seeking $150,000 from its member communions to organize interfaith responses and to support a wide range of recovery efforts underway throughout the United States following "the worst series of spring storms in over 28 years," said Mr. Rick Augsburger, CWS Emergency Response Director. CWS is continuing to concentrate on unmet needs in low-income areas, and also is requesting that congregations assemble "Gifts of the Heart" clean-up and health kits.

"It has already been a very intense spring, and the wide range of this appeal shows that," Mr. Augsburger explained. "Cooperation among faith-based organizations responding to the disasters will be critical. This onslaught of repeated disasters will require tremendous volunteer and financial resources to assist those who are most vulnerable."

CWS appealed for $100,000 following the patch of "March madness" - early spring tornadoes, floods and storms that cut a swath of destruction throughout the Midwest and South, then raised it to $150,000 on April 17 after two more waves of tornadoes and storms in as many weeks hit Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky and Tennessee. The single worst incident occurred outside of Birmingham, AL, where 33 people were killed on April 8. Some 500 buildings were damaged in downtown Nashville.

The most serious destruction during the March storms occurred in south-central Minnesota, where four counties were hit by tornadoes March 29. Flooding also has been an ongoing problem this spring in Georgia and was particularly dire in Albany, Ga. in early March, marking the second time the Flint River has inundated the community in the last five years. Most of the flooded homes in 1993 were in low-income areas and few owners were able to maintain flood insurance.

In the CWS response, "we are very proud of the solid work of our volunteer disaster consultants, some of whom have had to juggle multiple disasters at once," Mr. Augsburger said.

A summary of recent CWS activity in the affected regions includes:

  • Charles Moeller, CWS/FEMA Region IV Disaster Response Facilitator, Lutheran Disaster Response, is assessing the scope of damage in the Nashville area through local religious community contacts.

Moeller is visiting Alabama to begin working with United Methodist Church (UMC) leaders and FEMA voluntary agency liaison Harry Noftseker to pull together faith groups that have expressed interest in developing a cooperative recovery program. UMC’s Mike Harper [(205) 226-7955] has been laying the groundwork for Moeller since the tornadoes struck last week.

Working with the Church of the Brethren (COB), CWS will be sending a large quantity of school kits to Alabama based on COB recommendations following an upcoming assessment.

  • CWS West Virginia-based DRC Clark Peloubet of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has been assessing needs in northern Georgia and reports that local churches have developed strong independent disaster response programs but are working cooperatively to avoid duplication of efforts.
  • At Gainesville, GA, Kentucky CWS volunteer Disaster Consultant Roger Newell, with UMCOR, helped organize a cooperative faith-based community program to advocate on behalf of residents of a mobile home park destroyed by a tornado.
  • In Illinois, the Illinois Council of Churches is spearheading efforts to raise $40,000 to assist in the repair of houses in the affected communities of Mattoon and Bath, reports CWS Disaster Resource Consultant Nancy Tegtmeier, who has been assessing damage in central Illinois. CWS will send seed money for the effort.
  • Meanwhile, a faith-based community organization in south-central Minnesota is being formed in the wake of late March tornadoes, reports CWS/FEMA Region V Regional Facilitator Ellis Wykstra of the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. The interfaith will be located in the Le Center-St. Peter area. Wykstra has been working with CWS Disaster Resource Consultant Josie Gonzalez of the Minnesota Council of Churches.

Financially CWS has sent:

  • $5,000 to help form the Rockingham County Interfaith in Rockingham County, NC, following tornadoes there in March. CWS also sent 300 cleanup kits to Rockingham County.
  • $2,000 to the Hopewell United Methodist Church in Gainesville, GA, for the emerging interchurch flood recovery program there.
  • $5,000 to the Wire Grass Interfaith Committee for ecumenical development in Elba, AL, for response to flooding there last month.
  • $5,000 to United Methodist Flood Recovery in Albany, GA, which is working in a consortium with Lutheran and Roman Catholic Organizations.


Gonzalez can be reached at (218) 299-4556 (O), (218)-299-4560 (FAX) e-mail: gonzalez@rrnet.com

Levin can be reached at (919)-746-3852 (H), (800)-910-7655 (O), (919)-746-8613 (FAX), e-mail: ncidrc@coastalnet.com

Moeller can be reached at (704)-433-8142 (H), (704)-439-1914 (Cellular), (888)-300-4425 (Pager), (704)-433-9883 (FAX) e-mail: LDRcfm@vistatech.net

Newell can be reached at (502) 447-7322

Peloubet can be reached at (304)-445-2833, (304)-445-7814, e-mail: clark_peloubet@ecunet.org

Tegtmeier can be reached at (217)-563-2043 (H), (217)-544-3423 (O), (217)-544-9307 (FAX)

Wykstra can be reached at (616)-672-5390 (H), (616)-246-0738 (O), (616)-224-0806 (FAX), (800)-776-1960 (Pager) e-mail: wykstrae@crcna.org


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