Orthodox Response to Hurricanes Surpasses $3 Million

Baltimore, MD (October 14, 2005) — Following the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina and later Hurricane Rita, the response by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) to the Gulf Coast region has grown to more than $3 million – the largest intervention ever by the agency in the United States.

“This has been a truly inspiring effort made possible by the cooperation of so many partners in our work,” said Constantine M. Triantafilou, IOCC executive director. “The support of the SCOBA hierarchs, the clergy and their parishes, Orthodox and ecumenical partners and the dedication and determination of the IOCC board, staff and volunteers has been remarkable.”

The IOCC-led effort has brought emergency relief assistance to tens of thousands of hurricane victims, including the distribution of more than $2.3 million dollars of food, canned meat, vitamins, water, quilts, blankets and bed linens, diapers, personal health kits, air mattresses, medicines, oral electrolyte solutions and other aid.

The initial response period, which has focused on the provision of immediate emergency relief, is expected to last about 50 days from the onset of the disaster, according to Frank Carlin, IOCC field director for operations in the hurricane-affected areas.

During this first phase, which will end on October 20, 2005 when IOCC plans on withdrawing emergency response teams from the Gulf Coast, the response has taken the form of direct assistance to Orthodox parishes and communities impacted by the storms, direct assistance through ecumenical networks to the affected population at large, and the provision of services and supplies in some of the most critically affected areas.

Financial support given to IOCC for hurricane relief efforts have been focused on the emergency assistance activities in the initial phase of the disasters.

“At this point, we anticipate expending all of our available resources during this emergency phase,” said Carlin. “We are not sitting on funds; we are spending them quickly, responsibly and prudently.”

As part of its response in the immediate aftermath of the disasters, IOCC is finalizing plans to implement an Orthodox parish/parishioner emergency assistance program. Those families who have been seriously or moderately affected by the disasters will be eligible for assistance. A survey form and criteria for determining levels of assistance has been developed with the assistance of Rice University School of Social Work and will be used by parishes to determine the needs of families in their community.

Carlin described the second phase as “the recovery and rehabilitation period” that will extend beyond October 20 and carry-on for a further six to nine months depending on the resources to implement such programs.

During this second phase, an IOCC-supported mobile medical van will be in continuous operation through March 2006 to offer medical services in the New Orleans, La. area. The medical van was contributed by Mission of Mercy, a nonprofit organization that provides free medical and dental services to the uninsured working poor, homeless and economically disadvantaged people. Catholic Charities of New Orleans is also cooperating in the medical outreach program that will be staffed entirely by volunteer medical professionals.

Carlin said that while there is a multitude of needs and opportunity to serve in the recovery and rehabilitation process, IOCC is currently limited by the funds available for this phase.

“We are hoping for the continued generosity of our supporters to extend further assistance. At this point, IOCC’s resources to respond to this disaster are depleted,” he said.

Founded in 1992, IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas (SCOBA) and has provided more than $200 million in disaster relief and development assistance to 29 countries worldwide.

Each of the nine SCOBA jurisdictions has provided support to IOCC for the hurricane response efforts.

“Were it not for the high quality of our emergency response this $3 million figure alone would not be impressive,” said Carlin.

“We have proven ourselves to be an effective and efficient link between resources and needs. Our church and parish leaders and the faithful supporters who gave so freely and contributed their resources of both time and money have enabled us to do what often looked impossible in the face of such massive and immediate needs.”