By STEPHEN O'KANE, Staff Writer | Published October 15, 2009
While floodwaters have receded and many people have gotten back to life as usual, other metro Atlantans are dealing with massive amounts of property damage and loss due to the floods of 2009.
Catholic Charities Atlanta is stepping up to the plate, hoping to provide aid and support in some of the hard-hit areas.
“Catholic Charities is not normally a first responder to disasters but is an early responder,” said Joe Krygiel, chief executive officer of Catholic Charities Atlanta.
“First response is better left to FEMA, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. There is much need after those relief agencies depart, and that is where Catholic Charities can make a valuable contribution to the relief effort. We have already met with Father Carl Zdancewicz and the pastors from the Southwest Deanery to provide assistance to their communities. We have also communicated closely with Msgr. David Talley and St. John Neumann in Lilburn.”
He said the Southwest and Northeast Metro Deaneries are the most impacted sections of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Catholic Charities currently has 25 scheduled appointments to assess need and they are sure this number will increase as the weeks go on. This is mostly due to the fact that shelters have already begun to close, damage is still being assessed and many families are not able to return to their residences.
The immediate needs are debris removal and cleanup. Fortunately, there are many organizations in the community providing this service; however, the Catholic Charities program focuses on the basic needs for long-term recovery.
The organization predicts that the biggest need will most likely be for rental assistance, food and utility deposits as families decide they cannot return to their primary residence. Financial assistance is the most needed. Cash gives an agency and a flood victim the ultimate flexibility in replacing items of need.
Catholic Charities has already attacked the situation head on in the first few weeks after the devastating floods. According to Ethel Higgins, disaster preparedness and response program director for Catholic Charities Atlanta, the organization has provided information on its Web site on how to contact the first responders; established a dedicated source of funding for Georgia’s flood victims, including online donations, an emergency $15,000 grant from Catholic Charities USA and proceeds from archdiocesan second collections on Oct. 10 and 11; made personal visits to parishes and schools that were most impacted by flood waters; and assigned Catholic Charities Atlanta personnel to set appointments for flood relief.
The organization recommends that families whose residences received massive damage register with FEMA and the SBA (Small Business Administration). FEMA provides financial assistance with temporary housing, repairs, replacement and permanent housing construction.
Catholic Charities Atlanta said it is important for anyone who has been impacted to file by the deadline of Nov. 23. SBA also provides disaster loans as low as 2.75 percent. Catholic Charities will assist with basic needs, not large structural items.
Catholic Charities Atlanta said they will continue to monitor the most pressing needs of flood victims, especially in light of the continued threatening weather and heavy rains. Many return to normal life shortly after a disaster, but the needs of the survivors linger long after the disaster strikes and Catholic Charities plans to be with these victims for the long haul.
“One thing we all need to realize is that you can’t prepare for a disaster while a disaster is happening. Disaster preparedness needs to be done all year round so when disaster strikes your community, you are able to respond effectively,” said Higgins.
“The Disaster Response and Preparedness Program provides training around disaster preparedness and will begin training on ‘Matthew 25,’ which provides the parishes with training curriculum so each parish will be able to respond to their community. Matthew 25 uses volunteers who are able to respond to a disaster immediately. This is being used around the country at other archdioceses and Catholic Charities agencies. We are really excited about beginning this training in the Atlanta area which will benefit not just parishes, but communities in general.”
To donate to Catholic Charities to help those impacted by the recent Atlanta area floods, visit www.catholiccharitiesatlanta.org. Donations may also be mailed to Catholic Charities Flood Relief, 680 W. Peachtree St., NW, Atlanta, GA 30308.