"We're delighted to have Katie Mears on board," said Abagail Nelson, ERD's senior vice president for programs. "Katie has been working with the Diocese of Louisiana, our program partner in post-Katrina community rehabilitation. On her first day in the office, she jumped right in to support the Diocese of Atlanta through last week's flooding in the Southeast."
The Diocese of Atlanta has been assisting churches such as Good Shepherd Episcopal in Austell, which opened its doors to people whose trailers were destroyed by floodwater.
"Since the first hours of the growing disaster, [ERD] has been on the phone and in constant touch with us," said the Rev. Canon Debra Shew, canon for community ministries in the Diocese of Atlanta. "Katie has been a constant partner, sharing practical ideas and information."
Originally from Iowa, Mears is relocating to New York from New Orleans, where she has been working with the Diocese of Louisiana's community rebuilding efforts. "Partnering with people left homeless by hurricanes Katrina and Rita, she directed a program that has trained thousands of Episcopal volunteers in basic building skills, gutted and rebuilt destroyed homes, and created an environment of pastoral care, respect and empowerment," according to an ERD release.
Mears also has supported the dioceses of Iowa and Texas in developing responses to recent disasters: the flooding of the Mississippi tributaries in spring 2008 and Hurricane Ike's destruction of Galveston in September 2008. Prior to her time in disaster response, she was a community organizer and journalist. Mears holds a bachelor's degree in history from Grinnell College in Iowa. In 2008, Grinnell College honored Mears with the Pioneer Award "for her efforts to help rebuild a city and for her ability to encourage others to do the same."
"We have approved our strategic plan through 2012 with a high priority on domestic disaster response and preparedness," said ERD President Rob Radtke. "Katie's hiring is a major step toward our goal of helping U.S. dioceses prepare their congregations and communities to effectively respond to and recover from disasters."
ERD's domestic disaster relief efforts may be supported online here or by calling 1-800-334-7626, ext. 5129. Gifts can be mailed to Episcopal Relief & Development, PO Box 7058, Merrifield, VA 22116-7058.