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06260May 10, 2006
PDA unveils $14 million response plan for ‘05 hurricanes
Volunteer villages are key to recovery
by Evan Silverstein
LOUISVILLE — Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) has announced a seven-year $14.4 million budget for funding ongoing relief efforts in the aftermath of last year’s devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes.
The "long-term strategic allocation" will guide the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s response to the disasters in Mississippi and Louisiana through at least 2013, according to Susan Ryan, PDA’s coordinator.
"The area of need is larger than Great Britain," she said.
Funding for the long-term relief plan, which received General Assembly Council approval last month, comes from the remainder of a record-setting $23 million in contributions raised by PDA in response to Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma.
Only $4.5 million of that money has been allocated so far, a timetable Ryan said was purposely "frontloaded" to keep PDA’s long-term response strong as financial contributions fade along with the public’s memory of the disaster.
"We don’t have a U.S. model for a response of this size and complexity," she said. "But based on our analysis of the need and our experiences over the last decade, the volume of work ahead will require at least seven more years of repair, rebuilding and interpersonal services."Central to the spending plan is the continued operation of six PDA-sponsored volunteer villages in Mississippi and Louisiana, the first of which opened last September in Gautier (pronounced go-shay), MS. Each site houses work teams from churches across the country helping with the recovery.
"We encourage churches to … send recovery teams to the hurricane zone," Ryan said of the storm-battered region where many homes, businesses and hotels were either damaged or destroyed. "The key piece to this one in the Gulf is that there has to be places for people to stay and work. And that’s costly."
Ryan said a single volunteer village cost about $8,500 a month to operate, but emphasized how the value of volunteer labor can quickly add up. She said in March alone the six villages hosted 1,890 volunteers who contributed 11,698 days of labor valued at $1.48 million.
Ryan said operation of the villages also leverages funds in terms of improved purchasing controls, quantity discounts, and could soon become a model for future PDA responses.
"We’ve created safe, organized, predictable environments where volunteers can come with reasonable expectations that their time, talent and material will be put to good use," she said.
The hurricane response budget includes relief and rebuilding money for five presbyteries located in the heart of the storm-damaged areas, including $4 million to support the recovery of Presbyterian congregations in impacted areas and to support their staffs.
"That’s not jut bricks and mortar," said the Rev. John Robinson, PDA’s associate for disaster response in the United States. "That’s about facilitating presbyteries looking at how to reconstitute congregations."
Funds to help rebuild communities as well as churches are included in the budget along with a reserve to cover future needs that could emerge as recovery efforts continue to unfold, PDA said.
"We have to keep some funds in reserve because this is an eight, maybe even a 10-year response and we need to monitor this as it goes along," Robinson said.
The seven-year budget, which eventually could be extended, represents the first time PDA has estimated needs for a domestic disaster beyond two to three years, Ryan said.
Any interest accrued by the contributions will be plowed back into the ongoing recovery effort. Funds received for 2005 hurricanes will not be used for other disasters, Ryan and Robinson insisted.
"It all folds back into the response for which it was designated," Robinson said.
For more information about registering a work team call PDA’s national call center at 866-732-6121.
Contributions for hurricane relief may be sent through normal mission-giving channels by designating gifts for the following account: U.S. hurricane response, DR000169. Gifts by credit card can be made by calling PresbyTel at (800)872-3283, or online at http://www.pcusa.org/pda/donate/accounts.htm. Checks payable to the PC(USA) can be mailed to: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Central Receiving, 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY, 40202.