Tornado Relief Update from Bishop Roth (April 2014)

First, let me express deep gratitude to God for all of you who have responded in some way to the disasters wrought by the tornadoes this past November by providing assistance and inquiring about additional needs. The outpouring has been heartwarming.

This update reflects information on Brookport and Washington as of the end of March 2014.

Lutheran Disaster Response (LDR) has been active in Brookport, IL, primarily through Ms. Joy Medrano (Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and LDR). Ms. Medrano works to provide oversight, training, and support to the disaster case managers; she advises the Long-Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) in coordinating the work of relief agencies and with interacting with state and federal agencies; and Ms. Medrano has assisted Pastor Mike Stadie (Program Director of Lutheran Disaster Response) in writing grant applications for assistance to Brookport and other Illinois disaster sites. On Tuesday, March 11, 2014, I joined Ms. Medrano and Pastor Stadie at a meeting with the Brookport LTRC and toured the area most damaged by the tornado. It was a delight to observe the open and productive working relationship between the LTRC and our Lutheran Disaster Response people. On behalf of the ELCA, I pledged our continuing support for the LTRC as recovery moves through its various stages and over continuously-emerging hurdles.

The local LTRC is up and running in Brookport. Nine volunteer disaster case managers are working on just over 100 cases. The LTRC is increasing its effort to communicate to the public that assistance is available and to determine further needs; there is a strong sense that many victims are still unaware that there is a LTRC in place to assist them with recovery and rebuilding. Of the roughly 100 cases opened this far, 24 require complete rebuilding of the home. Most of the demolition of structures that had to be cleared out has been done. Progress is being made toward the rebuilding. A construction manager is ready. House plans have been secured. Among the issues that the LTRC deals with at this time are delayed appearance of damage in homes, the strains of multiple families continuing to share a house until rebuilding is complete, and tornado-related medical bills that are not covered by insurance.

Local Brookport people have taken the lead on the LTRC and in various community recovery activities. In addition, Brookport receives quite a bit of hands-on support from nearby Metropolis and surrounding communities: from churches (including our Lutheran Church of the Cross), from civic organizations, from active volunteers as disaster case managers, and more.

Brookport currently has enough groups involved with cleanup. Brookport is looking for groups willing to come in the rebuilding process beginning mid to late May, particularly groups with key people having skills and experience in construction, roofing, plumbing, and electrical work. They are currently scheduling work projects for 20 building projects.

Persons or groups interested in volunteering for a week or two of work in Brookport through the summer months are invited to contact Pastor Jeff Bealmear. The preferred contact method is e-mail (pastorjeffb@yahoo.com); you may also phone First Methodist Church, Metropolis, at (618) 524–9325.

Ms. Medrano, Pastor Joe Chu (Associate Program Director of Lutheran Disaster Response), Mr. Dave Roth (Lutheran Disaster Response and Illinois Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), and I met in Washington, IL, with our Washington, Morton, and Pekin ELCA pastors along with members of St. Mark Lutheran Church on Monday, February 10, 2014. I had already toured damaged areas of Washington in December, but it was stunning again to see the extent of the devastation in Washington. We heard victims’ stories and also accounts of ongoing needs and challenges in the aftermath of the tornado. As a result of that meeting LDR has been able to be more proactive and effective in working with other agencies involved in case management in Washington.

As I write this, “Camp Noah” is beginning at Faith Lutheran Church, Washington. Camp Noah is a service provided by Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota to serve elementary age children who were affected by the tornado. The camp brings in outside counselors trained to help them deal with the disaster and develop resiliency in the face of stress; it is being held be during their spring break, March 31- April 4. (Contributions for disaster response that were sent directly to the synod office are among the funds underwriting Camp Noah.)

There is need for additional volunteer disaster case managers, titled “Disaster Relief Advocates” (DRA) by the Washington LTRC. What would you be taking on if you were to volunteer for this? Quoting from the guidelines for disaster case managers, “The Disaster Case Manager serves as a primary point of contact, assisting the Client in coordinating necessary services and resources to address the client’s complex disaster recovery needs in order to re-establish normalcy. Disaster Case Managers rely on the Client to play an active or lead role in their own recovery.” For a more detailed description of this role, go to www.nvoad.org/library/cat_view/10-disaster-case-management. In Washington, a part time DRA might simply do screening, case work with simpler cases, or partner with and support a full time DRA.

The preferred procedure for people who would like to volunteer in any capacity in Washington is to contact Bethany Community Church by e-mail (volunteer@bethanycommunitychurch.org). You can also receive volunteer information by phoning (309) 573-2670.

As always, remain in prayer.

God's peace,

S. John Roth
Bishop

Central/Southern Illinois Synod (ELCA)
524 So. 5th St.
Springfield, IL 62701
217.753.7915

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