Episcopalians respond to fires, hurricanes

 In Community Service, Episcopal Church

[October 12, 2017 – Scroll down for hurricane relief updates]

Episcopal Relief & Development is partnering with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern California to provide emergency support for those impacted by deadly wildfires in California. The assistance includes food and other critical supplies, housing and the storage of belongings.

“The diocese and church partners are coordinating their efforts during this challenging time. The fires have not been contained and last minute evacuations continue,” said Katie Mears, Director of Episcopal Relief & Development’s US Disaster Program. “We are in regular communication with the dioceses throughout California as they monitor the fires, assess damage and coordinate the sheltering and feeding of those affected.”

Eighteen different fires have forced thousands to evacuate and destroyed hundreds of buildings within the diocese. Over 20 wildfires are burning in Napa, Sonoma, Orange and Mendocino counties and other areas across California where a state of emergency has been declared. According to local authorities, at least 23 people have died, with over 250 reported missing.

Wildfires have burned over 190,000 acres, including 13 Napa Valley wineries which serve as the foundation of the local economy. Fires continue to be fueled by strong winds, dry brush and low humidity.

“I am very impressed by the wisdom among leaders in the Diocese of Northern California,” Mears said. “Margaret Dunning, the Diocesan Disaster Coordinator, and others have been working tirelessly for over six years to increase congregational preparedness and to network with neighboring dioceses and NGO partners. The diocese has responded successfully to several smaller events over the last few years. This large-scale emergency builds on that wisdom and experience.”

For accurate and current information on the 2017 fires, please visit www.caloes.ca.gov. The site features an updated overview, traffic conditions and road closures, wildfire maps, and more.

How to Help

Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves has announced that the offering at the November 3-4 Diocesan Convention in Salinas will be directed to the Diocese of Northern California to support relief work. Donations can also be made to Bishop Barry Beisner’s discretionary fund at the diocesan donation page.

Please support Episcopal Relief & Development’s response to these devastating wildfires in California by donating to the US Disaster Fund and pray for all those impacted.

Please do not donate goods; cash donations are always preferred because they reduce the amount of labor and the expense of sorting, packing, transporting and distributing donated goods. Relief agencies can use cash to meet survivors’ specific needs more quickly while also supporting local economic recovery.

Please join us in prayer for all affected by the fires and for those fighting the fires.

Top photo: The sun rises through a cloud of smoke on Tuesday in Santa Rosa, California, after a wildfire swept through. (Paul Kitagaki Jr. /The Sacramento Bee via AP)

Homes destroyed from fires are seen from an aerial view in Santa Rosa, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Hurricane Relief Update

Episcopal Relief & Development continues to provide emergency assistance to the US and British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico following the devastating impact of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

In partnership with Convoy of Hope and the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands, Episcopal Relief & Development is supplying food for approximately 900 preschool aged children, hot meals for 1,500 residents and distributing food and water in Tortola and Virgin Gorda. In addition to a generator, Episcopal Relief & Development is providing mosquito nets and cash for vouchers to the diocese as the organization continues to coordinate between key distribution points.

The Virgin Islands are slowly recovering from the storms. Reports indicate that approximately 22% of the homes and businesses throughout the islands currently have electricity. Electrical systems are being rebuilt with new utility poles, power lines and street lights installed. Water and cell phone service are still extremely limited.

In Puerto Rico, the crisis continues. Forty-five deaths have been reported. Almost 90% of the island is still without power. Episcopal Relief & Development is working with the Episcopal Diocese of Puerto Rico to coordinate and deliver food, fuel and other emergency supplies with church officials. Satellite cell phones are provided to enable communication between the diocese, church partners, emergency services and communities. Volunteers are organizing shipments of water and food to residents of Maricao and Ponce and other remote areas. The organization plans to supply water purification systems to isolated communities.

Xavier Castellanos, a representative from Episcopal Relief & Development, is helping the diocese mobilize church partners as they continue assessments and coordinate the next phase of the response. Emergency support was sent in advance of Hurricane Maria in order to help the diocese provide assistance quickly.

Residents living in more remote areas including the northern part of Puerto Rico have no running water and are drinking contaminated water from nearby rivers. On the southeast part of the island, miles of farmland have been leveled by the storms. Roads are littered with electrical poles and cables which must be removed before the island’s power grid is restored.

“The lives of so many people have been turned upside down,” said Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Senior Vice President of Programs. “This is a humanitarian crisis that will affect many people in the years to come.”

Contributions to Episcopal Relief & Development’s Hurricane Relief Fund will help support church and other local partners as they provide critical emergency assistance to those most in need.

To download bulletin inserts and other Hurricane Irma resources, visit episcopalrelief.org/hurricanes2017.

Episcopal Relief & Development is also partnering with the Episcopal Dioceses of Central Florida, Florida, Southeast Florida, Southwest Florida and Georgia to provide emergency support in some of the communities hardest hit by the storm.

In partnership with the Diocese of Central Florida, Episcopal Relief & Development is helping meet basic needs by working with St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church’s Outreach Ministries in Orlando and Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Melbourne. This assistance includes providing critical food as well as support to rebuild a local community garden. Read the full update and visit the agency’s donation links.

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