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.”

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