Wednesday, September 30, 2009

ERD Names Katie Mears New National Disaster Response Leader

Catherine (Katie) Mears has been named program manager for USA disaster preparedness and response for Episcopal Relief and Development (ERD).

"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.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Palmer And Trinity Pitch In!

Saturday, groups from Palmer Episcopal - Houston and Trinity Episcopal - The Woodlands lended a hand in the relief efforts in Galveston.

Most of the group members were making repeat trips, which we are so thankful for. But some were newcomers who we know gained a lot of insight into the plight of homeowners in Galveston. One volunteer tagging along with Trinity was from as far away as Newfoundland, Canada.

Below are some photos:

The Palmer Group at Mr. Stevenson's House

A note dated March 28, 1901 that the Palmer group found on the walls of one of the homes. This note was scribbled down when Galvestonians were rebuilding from the deadly 1900 Hurricane. Amazing circle of events.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Galveston Daily News Profiles TEDRD

From the Galveston County Daily News:

Some volunteers, students from a military-style boot camp for first responders, sang “Amazing Grace” as they welcomed a home-owner back into the repaired house.Another group was greeted regularly with hugs by the homeowner.

“He’d come out, first thing, and he hugged everyone, and nine times out of 10, he’d burst into tears,” Maggie Immler, Galveston relief coordinator for Texas Episcopal Disaster Relief and Development, said. “He called us all his angels.”

Immler has a slew of such stories. She started work in Galveston last fall, fresh from coordinating Hurricane Katrina relief projects. In Galveston, she found similar hurricane damage but a stronger groundswell of support and old-fashioned grit.

“My background is working in New Orleans, where everything took four times longer than it should,” she said, speaking by cell phone as she traveled to Houston for a diocese meeting.“I haven’t seen the level and depths of hopelessness that we saw in New Orleans. So when I sit back and look objectively at recovery in Galveston, the county and surrounding areas, everything is happening remarkably fast and in a remarkably organized way. That’s so exciting to me because there’s nothing we can’t do when we all work together.”

Episcopal Disaster Relief, part of the long-term recovery collaboration called Galveston County Restore and Rebuild, is headquartered at the William Temple Episcopal Center, 427 Market St., in Galveston.Some 1,500 volunteers from across the country have been processed and trained there, then placed in crews. About 23,000 hours of volunteer labor have been tallied thus far.

The Rev. Kyle Stillings, executive director at the William Temple Episcopal Center, has had a front-row seat on the flood of ministry to Galveston.

“I love the opportunity to listen to the stories volunteers share after a hard day of work, to hear how their lives are being shaped and transformed by the experience of service work,” Stillings said. “It’s a blessing to be surrounded by joyful and spirit-filled people willing to give so much of themselves for the sake of others.”

Similar stories have been reported time and again within the collaboration of faith-based organizations and nonprofit agencies making up Galveston County Restore and Rebuild. Their roundup and dispersal of volunteers and building crews across the island probably will continue through next summer, as long as residents need help.

“In the grand scheme of things, Galveston is tiny compared to what we experienced in New Orleans, but it’s happening so quickly here and with so much organizational power,” Immler said.At age 23, she is already a veteran of hurricane relief work.“As off guard as everyone was caught, it’s just been amazing to see everybody say, ‘We’ve got to keep pressing on,’” she said.

“They say, ‘It’s happened, but it’s not going to dominate our lives,’ and that’s been incredibly hopeful to me.“I feel like I’m working with Galvestonians not for Galvestonians, and that’s been a real cool thing.”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Precious Treasure

On September 13, 2008, a retired nurse named Precious Treasure Bacheller fell victim to the ravages of Hurricane Ike. Several feet of water destroyed most everything she owned.

“I didn’t know what a storm surge was,” said Bacheller. “But it came in from every direction.”

During the storm, Bacheller stayed in her Shore Acres home as she watched the water rise to her ankles, then her knees, and finally just above her waist.

Several months later, Bacheller had settled into her FEMA trailer on her property, but didn’t know how she would be able to repair her home until she encountered Rev. Mike Besson of St. John’s – La Porte.

“I walked into his freshly painted purple office, and I thought ‘this is different,” she said. “But then Father Mike started saying things that I felt. It’s hard to describe, but I felt like I was home.”

Bacheller said from that day on, she knew that she wanted to be a part of the church and mission of St. John’s.

“I just wanted to be a part of the community,” she said. “I told Father Mike that I would take all the help I could get, but if they couldn’t help me I wanted to volunteer.”

Bacheller spent much of her life caring for others as a hospice nurse. An incredibly caring heart led her to request AIDS patients when everyone else was afraid to do so. Outside of her FEMA trailer, more than a dozen cats gather for food as she can’t stand to let one go hungry. Every day for much of her life, she prayed and cared for the needy, but after Ike, she was the one in need.

Texas Episcopal Disaster Relief and Development was there to step in and support the repair of her home through volunteer labor and donations for materials. And in April St. John’s began working with TEDRD to repair damaged homes in the La Porte and Shore Acres communities in an effort they dubbed “Mission on the Bay.”

Construction Foreman, Sam Glass, led the relief work with the help of more than 100 volunteers from St. John’s alone. Over the summer, youth groups from around the country and weekend crews from Houston helped repair more than 40 homes, including Bacheller’s.

“I’ve been so blessed seeing the young adults work together and be so selfless,” she said. “I have sheets of paper with everyone’s name and email addresses so that I can thank and update them.”

Groups of volunteers left notes of encouragement all around her house as they steadily made repairs. One youth group of volunteers wrote “We love you Precious” on a piece of sheet rock and presented it to her. She plans on framing all of her keepsakes when she gets a chance.

“When they would leave, I would read all of it and cry,” she said. “But I think it was a good cry.”

Despite the fact that her home and belongings were destroyed and vandalized, Bacheller says all of it has changed her life for the better.

“Material stuff doesn’t really matter to me anymore,” she said. “My values have changed. You realize what is really important.”

As repairs on her home began, Bacheller started to attend services at St. John’s, and then she started confirmation classes. Just a few days before the anniversary of Hurricane Ike, Bacheller was officially confirmed in the church.

“My experience has been a wonderful one,” she said. “Sometimes I’m in awe. I’m so very proud to be a part of the church and say this is my family.”

Through the efforts of TEDRD and St. John’s, countless individuals have been touched by the caring hearts of volunteers and the enduring spirit of the La Porte and Shore Acres communities.

“Precious has been a true light to our church and her testimony of survival has inspired us all,” said Besson. “She truly is a "precious treasure" here; one of the good things that happened to us after Ike.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Volunteer Celebration in Galveston!

The United Way of Galveston is hosting a luncheon to celebrate the efforts of volunteers in Galveston today, and our own Maggie Immler will be on hand to talk about how volunteers have impacted the lives of our homeowners.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ike Anniversary Coming Up!

September 13, 2009 marks the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Ike. St. John's - La Porte will be holding a celebration at their church following the 10:30 a.m. service. Everyone is invited! We will be celebrating the great work and recovery that we have made in La Porte as we are on the verge of finishing up our projects there.

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