This is my first post for awhile. Lots of personal things plus doing flood coordinating and traveling and meeting with folks and spending time with Abigail Nelson from ERD (Episcopal Relief and Development) have been enough. So taking the advice of others, like Abigail, who do this work, you have to know when to "hold 'em and when to fold 'em." Everyone involved in disaster relief needs to pay attention to a kind of 'creeping stress,' that is, the kind of stress that occurs almost unawares as we do the good work we're doing and not paying attention to what may be happening to us physically, spiritually and emotionally.
At any rate...
It’s hard to believe that its been over six weeks since the first reports of massive flooding in Iowa. After those first emails from Wendy Abrahamson, then Maureen Doherty, others poured in as fast as the waters breached levees and begin destroying homes and businesses. From Waverly to Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, from Iowa City and Coralville to Oakville, Burlington and points south the lives of thousands of Iowans were plunged into the nightmare and chaos that some have been calling Iowa’s “Katrina.”
Out of this chaos rose a different kind of flood: a flood of fellow Iowans stepping up to help one another in those first hours and days of the devastation; a flood of phone calls from around the Episcopal Church with of help in the form of gifts of money and the presence volunteers. Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD) stepped in with an initial grant for flood victims and the folks from Louisiana called and offered their assistance in the persons of Katie Mears (an native Iowan working for the Diocese of Louisiana, rebuilding homes) and Peter Nunnerly, another staff person from Louisiana as well as any advice we wished to tap into.
Bishop Alan asked me to help with the coordination of flood relief efforts, especially from the many Episcopal volunteers from outside the Diocese and to work with ERD in continuing funding efforts. The Bishop asked the local coordinators to gather with Katie Mears, which we did at the end of June, in order to look at how we could work together and begin planning “All Hands” work days; the first of which was held on the Fourth of July weekend in Cedar Rapids. Others have been held in Cedar Falls/Waterloo area and just this past weekend in Des Moines and Iowa City. For information on the newly recreated Diocese of Iowa Office for Disaster Relief go to http://www.iowaepiscopal.org/ and under the flood banner click on: Flood Relief and Recovery Information.
The waters may have receded in most places but the needs of flood victims have not. However, to the surprise of many that is not universally true. Across the Mississippi from Burlington, what’s left of the village of Gulfport is still standing in water, but it is hoped that in the next week or so homeowners can began to go back to assess the damage. In other places, some families are still mucking out flood debris, removing damaged household items, salvaging what they can, or tearing out walls, duct work, and wiring while others are hoping to begin rehabbing. The hardest hit will probably not get any rebuilding started before the snow flies. In fact despite promises made by State and Federal agencies some forms of assistance, especially funding, may not happen as fast and as much as hoped for. I heard many groans of dismay at the news that Congress will not be taking up the issue of federal assistance for Iowa until after the summer recess.
Today’s (Aug 3) Des Moines Register reported on the story of Cedar Rapids resident, Patricia Jordan and her daughter. Patricia, who is also blind, lost her rented home to the flood waters. Patricia and her daughter may end up in a homeless shelter. Patricia, the Register reports, is going to have lots of company in her plight as the destruction of inexpensive housing in places like Cedar Rapids will be gone. The present state of the economy is going to make life even more difficult for these folks and those who lost jobs as a result of the flooding. The aid they receive will be minimal to nothing. Our sisters and brothers in New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast know exactly what this means.
There is still a lot more to do. We will continue to keep you posted. Funds as well as helping hands are still very much needed. For information on making a donation http://www.iowaepiscopal.org/ and under the flood banner click on: Donations for Iowa Flood relief.
If you want to help by volunteering please contact volunteer coordinators (The Reverends Betsy Lee and Susanne Watson Epting) at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and they will put you in touch with one of the local coordinators.
The Diocesan web page, http://www.iowaepiscopal.org/, will lead you too more information and the latest news. We are working hard to keep everything updated and current.
Thank you all who have given of your time and treasure to help relieve the distress of those whose lives have been overcome by wind and water. Your grace-filled ministry and work offers hope and comfort to those in need.