Following is an update from the MACUCC Disaster Relief Coordinators.
NOTE: The MACUCC has established the Mass. Tornado Relief Fund. 100% of your gifts will be used to support the recovery efforts of our churches and other organizations in the affected communities. Make your donation here: macucc.org/tornadoes.
June 10, 2011
Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The woods were lovely. Green trees. Blue skies. Birds singing. And there in the middle of the woods was a refrigerator. Next to it, a stove. Still standing where they had for years.
The rest of the house was gone.
Between Monson and Brimfield alone over 80 houses were demolished, over 100 were rendered uninhabitable, over 300 have been severely damaged. It was the last stop for a series of storms that began their destruction in the suburbs of Westfield and the streets of Springfield. As of this morning there are still 271 people being housed at the MassMutual Center and it is estimated that 514 housing units have been lost in Springfield.
This week we gathered the pastors from the impacted towns for a lunch break to share stories and check on needs. Our UCC churches and pastors in the region have been busy round the clock since the storm. In Monson, they have been a center for coordinating volunteers. In Brimfield, they have offered food and shelter and a place to gather and tell stories. In Springfield, Sturbridge and Southbridge, they have been coordinating efforts with the ecumenical community and town officials. All of them have offered a spiritual grounding to a displaced community. Peter Wells, Jill Graham, and Kris LoFrumento have been on the ground regularly checking in on pastors and churches and helping where they could. Other Conference staff have been researching resources and setting up web information. (Check out our Conference website www.macucc.org for the latest updates.) We have also been in regular contact with our UCC National Disaster Ministries to coordinate their aid and resources for our region.
Our pastors in the impacted areas want you to know how grateful they are with all the prayers, notes, offers of help and gifts of material and funds that have come their way. They have their hands full in the moment with recovery efforts and these expressions of support and concern have eased their stress. They also want you to know that they either have all the supplies they need or know where to get them and have run out of space to store extras.
However, the real work of recovery is only in its earliest of stages. We need to wrap a home around that refrigerator in the woods -- and many others.
The initial crisis response is moving into urgent care on its way to long term recovery. Your most important help will be to walk with our brothers and sisters in this region during the long haul.
In the meantime here are some ways you can help:
- Our Minister and President, Jim Antal, sent out an email inviting all our churches to take a special collection this Sunday, June 12, and then have their delegate to the Conference Annual Meeting (June 18) bring a single check made out the MACUCC (memo: “tornado relief”).
- Equally important was Jim’s invitation for churches to sign a card to bring to the Conference Annual Meeting so we can pass them along to churches and pastors. We will continue to receive funds at the Mass Conference that we will use to help in the urgent and long term recovery as needed.
- Additionally, there are two other places for you to consider: The United Church of Christ Spring Storm Appeal has been set up for all the disasters from floods to fires to tornado that have spread damage here in Massachusetts and across the country. Visit www.ucc.org to donate. United Way is setting up a fund to assist in the long term recovery, as well. It can be mailed to: MA Disaster Relief Fund; United Way, 46 Park Street, Framingham, MA 01702 or donate at http://www.uwotc.org.
- MEMA has set up an information website where people and groups with needs can post requests for volunteers and materials and supplies. AND folks who want to offer assistance or resources can post their offer. MEMA will follow up to ensure that the needs and offers are legitimate and guide the connection between them. We have asked our pastors in the impacted area to post their needs on this website. You can find this at: http://www.aidmatrixnetwork.org/fema
** Scroll down and click on Massachusetts on the map
** Click the link appropriate to the need (volunteer time or commodities)
- We will also continue to be in ongoing contact with pastors and agencies working in the impacted area and will post updates on our Mass Conference Website and email requests when needed.
Another important promise you can make is to the long term work. As the urgent care evolves into the long haul, a Long Term Recovery Group(s) will be established. History tells us that at least 5% of people who are impacted by the storm will have unmet needs after insurance and state and federal assistance has been allocated. These folks are typically among the most vulnerable members of our communities. The faith community is crucial in the work of long term recovery groups seeking to help folks with those needs. Contact Rev. Don Remick if you have an interest in this ministry or need to learn more about it.
Don Remick and Jim Tilbe - Mass Conference UCC Disaster Resource Coordinators
Jill Graham and Peter Wells - Associate Conference Ministers
Kris LoFrumento - Associate for Youth & Young Adult Ministries