IOCC Leads Orthodox Community Outreach in US

In 2008, IOCC volunteers representing 85 Orthodox parishes from eight different jurisdictions provided $3.5 million in community development and emergency relief programs throughout the US Above, IOCC’s “Volunteer in the Gulf Coast” volunteers helped complete 50 new homes in Louisiana. (photo: IOCC Baltimore)

Baltimore, MD (February 20, 2009) — With the participation of 235 volunteers from across the country, IOCC provided $3.5 million in community development and emergency relief programs throughout the U.S. in 2008. IOCC’s program in the U.S. supported initiatives to build homes on the Gulf Coast, provide new books and equipment to inner city and rural schools, and train volunteers to respond to their community’s long term needs. While the US Program focused on long term development efforts, IOCC utilized its disaster response capability to respond to emergencies including last year’s Iowa floods and Hurricane Ike in Texas.

“We are in the vanguard of a national effort to engage Orthodox volunteers in a variety of opportunities right here in the U.S.,” says Pascalis Papouras, IOCC’s US Program Coordinator. According to Papouras, in 2008, IOCC volunteers represented 85 Orthodox parishes from eight different jurisdictions.

“Volunteer in the Gulf Coast,” one of IOCC’s largest volunteer programs, mobilized 204 volunteers in its second year to build new homes for communities that are still rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. Participants put in over 8,000 volunteer hours, worth a total of $160,000, towards the completion of 50 new homes in Louisiana.

In the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast, IOCC expanded the capacity of local organizations to serve their community’s long term needs by providing books and equipment to schools, and by supporting initiatives that assisted survivors of domestic abuse. “We chose to support key local partners because funding for vital outreach activities has been overlooked in the general relief and recovery of the major agencies on the Gulf Coast,” says Papouras.

Desire Street Academy, a New Orleans high school for African-American boys, received over $1 million in donated books and equipment through IOCC. In Alabama, Penelope House, which provides shelter for battered women, received a grant for a pilot project to educate primary school teachers in Mobile County on domestic abuse. Also in Alabama, IOCC partnered with the National Head Start Association to provide more than $800,000 in new books and classroom materials to children in eight counties. In New Orleans and surrounding parishes, IOCC and the Peja Stojakovic Children’s Foundation distributed an additional $800,000 worth of books to youth organizations. IOCC received valuable assistance for these projects from Brother’s Brother Foundation.

IOCC expanded its volunteer opportunities in 2008 with the “Frontline”, a group of Orthodox clergy and lay people trained by IOCC in Critical Incident Stress Management, a form of trauma evaluation and counseling. The Frontline, now 50 members strong, represents five different Orthodox jurisdictions. In 2008, the Frontline provided pastoral care to victims of the Iowa floods and Hurricane Ike in the Gulf Coast.

In 2009, IOCC will continue its “Volunteer in the Gulf Coast” program, as well as its other development and emergency initiatives including the Frontline.

IOCC, founded in 1992 as the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA), has implemented over $300 million in relief and development programs in more than 33 countries around the world.