Houston Orthodox Christian Community Responds to Hurricane Survivors

Houston, Texas (September 12, 2005) — Orthodox Christians in Texas have worked tirelessly since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast to deliver emergency supplies, welcome those displaced from neighboring states and partner with International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to provide relief to the region.

“The devastating hurricane which has ravaged the Gulf Coast states of our country… is a reminder to all of us that tragedies in the world are dramatically increasing and that one’s life can be taken in the twinkling of an eye,” wrote Metropolitan Isaiah of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Denver in a letter to parishes encouraging them to respond through IOCC.

Orthodox parishes in the Metropolis of Denver and throughout the United States have collected funds for the effort and prepared health kits for the hundreds of thousands of people forced to flee the devastated region.

Just days after the hurricane, when people were retreating from New Orleans, Leon Vezos organized a shipment of emergency items and headed to Baton Rouge, La. After loading a truck with water and Gatorade over the Labor Day holiday weekend, Vezos personally drove the supplies which were distributed to rural communities in and around Alexandria, La.

Fr. Gabriel Karambis, Dean of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation, where Vezos is a member, has encouraged Orthodox Christians in the community to join in the effort and made available the resources of his parish. Orthodox Christians throughout the city have worked to prepare additional supplies for transfer to Baton Rouge, La. The effort resulted in truckload of urgently-needed diapers, water, Gatorade, clothes and health kits.

Houston, along with Baton Rouge, La. and Mobile, Ala., has become a center for IOCC operations where staff from its Emergency Response Network is coordinating aid to survivors of the disaster.

The IOCC Emergency Response Center in Houston is hosted by St. George Antiochian Church, which is providing office, storage space, and accommodations for the IOCC staff.

IOCC’s emergency response network, comprised of trained Orthodox clergy and their U.S. parish communities, provides emergency services to people struggling to recover from natural or man-made disasters.

Contributions to IOCC’s Hurricane Disaster Response Fund may be sent to IOCC, “Hurricane Relief,” P.O. Box 630225, Baltimore, MD 21263-0225. Donations may also be made online at www.iocc.org or by calling toll-free 1-877-803-IOCC (4622).

Founded in 1992, IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA).