WASHINGTON (CNS) — Catholic Charities agencies were on the ground assessing damage after a series of storms with deadly tornadoes and massive floods swept through the southern United States April 27-29.
The storms killed 35 people and left thousands without power while razing homes and businesses.
Arkansas and Mississippi were the hardest hit, but deaths also were reported in Oklahoma, Iowa, Alabama and Tennessee. Georgia residents lost power, and the Carolinas and Florida experienced flash floods.
In areas hit by tornados, thousands of people forced out of their homes sought temporary shelter while the National Guard, local police and residents sifted through the rubble searching for victims.
Patricia Cole, communications director for Catholic Charities USA, said its disaster response operations team has been coordinating with local Catholic Charities agencies in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, Florida and Alabama “where conditions on the ground are changing by the hour.”
She said Catholic Charities USA had received requests for grants for financial assistance and is staying in close contact with Catholic dioceses and agencies in the damaged areas as they assess the needs in their communities.
Patrick Gallaher, executive director of Catholic Charities of Arkansas, posted updates on the agency’s website, noting that the search and rescue phase of the relief effort finished April 30. He also said the overflow of donations made it impossible to store any other contributions until new collection points were established.
“The immediate need of survivors is being met,” he said.
St. Joseph Church in Conway, Ark., initially was used as an American Red Cross shelter, but the shelter was closed April 29 because not enough people were using it. Parishes in the Little Rock Diocese have been conducting their own drives to mobilize and collect donated materials.
Gallaher said the local Catholic Charities agency continues to coordinate with other agencies to provide support during the cleanup phase and is gathering case managers for the rebuilding effort that will come in the months ahead.
“The long-term relief effort will take months as we assist people in obtaining replacement housing, furniture, clothing and counseling,” he said. “As needs crystallize, we shall seek help from among our parishes.”
Greg Patin, executive director of Catholic Charities in Jackson, Miss., told Catholic News Service April 30 that staff members would begin to assess local needs May 1 after the first responders were finished their work.
Once needs are assessed, he said, “we will begin to provide what assistance we can,” but he also noted that the agency has limited staffing resources and will need volunteer assistance.
The agency has reached out to the Knights of Columbus for help and is looking for monetary donations because it cannot accept donated goods at this time.
To support Catholic Charities’ disaster relief effort, visit their website at https://support.catholiccharitiesusa.org, call 1-800-919-9338, or mail a donation to Catholic Charities USA P.O. Box 17066, Baltimore, Md., 21297-1066.
In a time to build, CatholicPhilly.com connects people and communities
As society emerges from the loss and separation of the pandemic, CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you join in our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103