The full audio version of the Report on Disaster Recovery is linked below:
Deacon Elaine Clements, diocesan disaster coordinator for the Diocese of Louisiana, reported to Diocesan Council on behalf of the Domestic Disaster Program of Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD). Clements has been working closely with our diocese after Hurricane Harvey devastated a number of our communities and churches.
In 2016, Bob Thompson and the Rev. Nancy Springer participated in one of ERD’s preparedness seminars on behalf of the Disaster Response Commission for the diocese even before Harvey was on the radar. “They has the opportunity to see the tools that ERD has created for both the pre and post sides of a disaster, including “how to” guides on post-disaster recovery by fellow Episcopalians, asset mapping, webinars on spiritual care, and how to organize disaster mission trips,” Clements said.
Hurricane Harvey came ashore on August 25. “Even as the storm moved on land, ERD was already organizing a response and fundraising. There are only a few days to raise a good number of funds for dioceses to use to meet their immediate needs,” she said.
On September 2, because of the “great leadership” of this diocese, ERD was able to make the first grant for emergency funding for the Diocese of West Texas. Less than a week later, Clements and Katie Mears with ERD were in San Antonio meeting with Bishop Reed about the next steps, and ERD was ready to give the funds needed to hire a Deputy for Disaster Recovery.
Jennifer Wickham was an “inspired suggestion,” and she accepted the position. “She’s a huge gift to your diocese, and I have enjoyed our relationships and working with her so closely,” said Clements.
Wickham continued with the Hurricane Harvey relief report, saying, “Harvey ramped up pretty fast, coming ashore as a Category 4, and the eye of the storm entered land across Port Aransas and Rockport. And then it sat across our diocese and the Diocese of Texas for several days.
“Most of the things that affected us were wind driven. We saw so much of fallen debris and damaged buildings. Forty-one counties were declared federal disaster areas, and 15 of those are in our diocese.
“Not all of our churches or people we know living in these counties were impacted, but these areas are full of people who were. What we are doing is reaching out to all and finding out their needs,” said Wickham.
The diocese is responding primarily to six areas, Aransas Pass, Corpus Christi, Port Aransas, Refugio, Rockport, and Victoria, and is also assisting the community of Berclair with which St. Philip’s, Beeville, works so closely.
“WE are still in recovery mode, and we will be there for the long haul,” said Wickham. Many material and monetary donations have come in from across the diocese and across the larger church.
Traci Maxwell is serving as the volunteer coordinator and is helping to organize groups from across the nation coming to help clean up and rebuild. “We are so grateful for all of the hands that have come.”
The diocese has received $600,000 in donations and grants. “We are in a good financial situation to help. “We’ve given emergency grants to individuals, funded different community services, and we’ve helped buy mobile homes for Homes for Displaced Marlins in Port Aransas.”
Conservative estimates are that unmet needs across TX surpass $1.4 billion – based on filed FEMA applications.
“Your bishops have leaned into the murkiness of this. They have chosen to continue to fork into the unknown, into this metaphorical Good Friday, and continue to reach and help all of these people affected and will see them through to Easter Sunday. It’s a lovely thing to enter into this discernment together and find who the church is supposed to be.”
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry will visit the Harvey-affected areas on Wednesday, February 28. A Community Eucharist will be held at St. Peter’s, Rockport, at 1:00 p.m. and Bishop Curry will preach.
“We can all be so thankful to God for Jennifer, who said ‘yes’ with almost no hesitation. She knew better than I did what I was asking her to take on, and she stepped into all the destruction and has been an instrument of healing, and she continues to be,” said Bishop Reed.