Church groups form disaster recovery network - Quad-Cities Online: Iowa

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Church groups form disaster recovery network

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Posted: Thursday, August 13, 1998 1:00 am

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) -- Several religious groups in Iowa want to help victims of natural disasters beyond what the Red Cross and federal government can help.

``We've learned through experience there is a need for the faith community to be organized and coordinated,'' said Jim Almquist with Lutheran Social Services, which is spearheading the Iowa Interfaith Disaster Recovery Network.

Prompted by the floods and storms this June, the network hopes to address the ``volunteer, financial, spiritual, physical or psychological needs'' of storm and flood victims beyond what the Red Cross or the Federal Emergency Management Agency can do.

So far, the Iowa Interfaith Disaster Recovery Network has a commitment of about $150,000 and the support of various organizations including Ecumenical Ministries of Iowa, the Iowa Conference of United Churches of Christ, Catholic Charities, the Jewish Federation of Greater Des Moines, Iowa-Missouri Church World Service, and several individual churches.

Almquist said the network intends to hire seven coordinators throughout Iowa to find and help storm victims who need additional support.

``I think one of the bottom lines is the long-term unmet needs,'' said Almquist, who helped coordinate assistance through Lutheran Social Services during the 1993 flood.

``There are things that happen to people three, four, five months down the line,'' he said.

The network intends to concentrate efforts in rural areas. Coordinators will help people apply for federal and local aid, connect them with existing charitable programs or, as a last resort, use network resources.

For instance, the network hopes to provide volunteers to help elderly and disabled residents in cleaning up flooded basements or clearing out storm-damaged tree limbs. They also might need help in filling out applications for federal aid, Almquist said.

And there are times that the network can assist people directly, he said.

For instance, Almquist said they were contacted recently about a young family in Des Moines who had sustained flood damage in June. The family received federal disaster aid and had cleaned up and had repairs made. But during heavy rains last week, they were flooded again. Almquist said the family was not eligible for any more disaster aid with the second flood.

Almquist said he hopes to expand the network to include more religious organizations. He said the benefit of forming the network now is that it can be geared up instantly for future disasters.

``That's why we're doing this now, so the next disaster we don't have to go all through the planning and building trust process again,'' he said.

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