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Catholic Charities organizes help for Irene’s victims
By Kevin J. Jones
Houses severely damaged after Hurricane Irene came through Bethel, Vt. on August 29, 2011. Credit: USFWS
Houses severely damaged after Hurricane Irene came through Bethel, Vt. on August 29, 2011. Credit: USFWS

.- As Catholic Charities agencies respond in the aftermath of the hurricane and tropical storm Irene, Bishop Salvatore R. Matano of Burlington has expressed his “prayerful support” for Vermonters suffering the storm’s effects.

With the guidance of Vermont Catholic Charities, the Church in the state is assessing the extent of the storm’s devastation to determine the particular needs of the  people, the Diocese of Burlington said on Aug. 30.

Irene dropped up to 11 inches of rain on Vermont over the weekend and caused normally small mountain streams to flood. The floodwaters smashed buildings and ripped homes from their foundations, surprising many.

As of Aug. 30, the death toll for Hurricane Irene stood at 42 people, and of that number, at least three were from Vermont.

The flooding caused by Irene has also isolated people, closing 260 roads and 30 highway bridges.

Vermont Catholic Charities has previously established a disaster relief fund and has asked for contributions to help Irene’s victims.

“Every dollar received will be distributed to those who have been adversely impacted by the storm,” the Diocese of Burlington said.

The East Coast agencies of Catholic Charities USA are assessing the damage of Hurricane Irene and are prepared to meet the food, shelter and other immediate and long-term needs of affected families and individuals.

“In many ways, we were blessed--Irene came with less intensity and impact than what we expected, but there are still thousands of people dealing with power outages, property damage, and personal loss,” Kim Burgo, vice president of the national agency’s disaster operations, said in an Aug. 30 statement.

Roger Conner, senior director of communications for Catholic Charities USA, told CNA the organization has been “very busy” in response to the storm.

He pointed out that Catholic Charities in the Virgin Islands and in Puerto Rico have already helped respond to those affected there.

The organization’s various agencies are “assessing the need and helping where we can, as we always do, in tandem with other agencies on the ground.”

Frank Morock, communications director with the Diocese of Raleigh, said the storm’s damage there was much less serious than it could have been.

However, there was “widespread flooding” in coastal areas and in some communities up to 100 miles inland. At least 18,000 homes and businesses were affected, hundreds of thousands of people have lost power, and roads have been washed out.

“Diocesan churches and schools fared well with only some minor roof leaks or flooded basements. Nothing extensive,” he said on Aug. 30.

North Carolina Catholic Charities offices are surveying parishes that experienced heavy wind and rain to determine the needs of local communities. The agencies are providing food vouchers for parishes to distribute to those in need.

National officials emphasized the organization’s longstanding commitment to those in need of assistance.

“As the nation moves on from this hurricane, and the headlines cover the next story, we cannot forget about the people that have been affected. Catholic Charities will be there to help,” Burgo said.

While Catholic Charities and organizations like the Red Cross are involved in immediate response, Conner said, Catholic Charities is “particularly well known” for providing long-term aid.

“After immediate needs are met, there tend to be a lot of ongoing needs where people’s lives are affected,” he said.

Catholic Charities USA said that its resources have been “strained” by numerous spring and summer disasters and asked people to donate to help those in need.


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