by Ann Cooper
Tropical Storm Irene unleashed her devastation almost a year ago. While much has been done and many have been and are being helped to recover from the emotional and physical damage, much work remains. The Episcopal Diocese has received a grant of $150,000 from Episcopal Relief and Development to aid in the ongoing recovery process. We invite you to consider how your faith community might assist this process and to apply for additional—or start-up--help from this grant.
But first a bit of history.
Episcopal Relief and Development granted the Diocese $20,000 for emergency relief within days of the storm, and funded a later grant of $50,000 for ongoing relief efforts in November and December 2011. Because the needs were immediate and the time frame short, there was little in the way of formal application or process and, while some projects were submitted by individual parishes, many were initiated by the grant steering committee. See below for a list of the projects funded through the most recent grant and a list of some of the towns affected.
This new grant is different in two important ways. First, it is for long-term recovery projects rather than emergency aid. Second, the grant itself is longer-term, covering the remainder of 2012. These differences, as well as Episcopal Relief and Development guidelines, demand a shift in focus and process.
What we are looking for now is a longer and broader view. Irene recovery is going to take years; Episcopal Relief and Development funding will end at the end of this year. We encourage faith communities (both established churches and less formal groups of Episcopalians) to find ways, using their own resources as well as grant funds, to assist directly in recovery efforts, building programs and relationships that reach into the future and are not dependent on continued grant funding.
For those faith communities in or near the flooded areas, projects such as (but not limited to) debris removal, home renovation and refurnishing, preparation for winter—clothing, fuel, wood harvest, programs for children, help for farmers, the restoration of land and gardens, opportunities for storytelling and personal support may seem obvious. But the same opportunities exist for—and our unity as an Episcopalian community demands—the development of programs by those not directly affected to help those for whom recovery will take months or years, not days or a check. This is one of the ways that we can do Jesus’ work in the world right now.
Not only does this funding create opportunities for us to serve our neighbors from the broader community, it also encourages us to strengthen relationships within our own diocese and to establish connections with agencies, schools, service organizations, youth organizations, other denominations, enabling us all, while we continue to respond to Irene’s devastation, to lay the groundwork for ongoing cooperation and programs for the next disaster and to create a more responsive, caring community for everyday living.
How do you find out what needs to be done? Call the Town Clerk’s office in an affected town. Contact the local Long Term Recovery Committee or your local social service agency. Visit the Vermont Strong website, talk to other churches and your friends and neighbors.
Here are some suggestions included by Bishop Thomas Ely in his recent pastoral letter. Others are appended below.
• Damage to farms, in terms of land quality, topsoil, seeds, livestock, machinery is huge, and affected farmers will struggle for years to restore their land and productivity, balancing debt, hard work, and hope. While large-scale aid to farmers is beyond our scope, consultation with state government and the Vermont Community Foundation has confirmed that we had the right idea when we helped farmers transport feed for their livestock.
• Although spring seemed more fickle this year than others, it did come—and so will winter. Clothing and fuel will continue to be needed by many affected by the storm. Fuel needs include wood, which might need harvesting as well as transporting.
• Land cleanup and garden restoration
• School programs to help children continue to tell their stories through art and poetry
• Refurnishing and refurbishing homes
• Liaison and coordination with local agencies to determine what is needed and how you might help
• Advocacy for families and programs through local and state social service agencies
To this end we have created an application form for start-up and/or supplementary grants from churches and groups of committed Episcopalians. We will entertain requests ranging from $500 to $5,000. There will be three grant cycles, with application deadlines of July 1 (extended from June 15), September 15, and December 1.
Each application will be assigned to a member of the grant’s Steering Committee, who will answer questions and serve as liaison to the larger group. A list of the steering committee members and their contact information appears below. We hope that if, as you begin to think about possible projects for your group, you need clarification or more detail about the grant process and possibilities, you will not hesitate to give one of us a call.
Irene Recovery Grant Steering Committee
Ann Cooper, Irene Flood Response Consultant
(Middlebury; St. Stephen’s)
Kathleen (Kit) Cooke
(Burlington; St. Andrew’s, Colchester)
The Rev. Deacon David Ganter
802-899-5489 (H); 802-318-5905 (mobile)
(Jericho; St. James, Essex)
(Wilder; St. Paul’s, White River Junction)
(Brattleboro; St. Michael’s)
The Rev. Lisa Ransom
(Moretown; Christ Church, Montpelier)
The Rev. Jean Smith
(Brattleboro; St. Michael’s)