September 2, 2016 (Baltimore, MD) More than 40,000 homes have been damaged after powerful floods swept across much of Baton Rouge last month. The race to clean homes before mold and other health hazards set in is a challenge as more hands are needed to help in the short-term response and long-term recovery. Orthodox Christian volunteers organized by International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) are rallying to their neighbors in need with cleanup assistance in affected communities.
IOCC Community Action volunteers of all ages, many from New Orleans, have been working tirelessly over the past few weeks, helping clean out the flood-damaged Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, and assisting people in the communities surrounding Baton Rouge rip out waterlogged walls and cabinets, pull up soaked carpet, and throw away family furniture and possessions that were beyond saving.
Memories of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina more than ten years ago are still vivid for New Orleans resident, Dimitri Poulos, 40, and his son, Andreas, 14, who came out to volunteer.“I will never forget the destruction to our house and all around me. Our family home was left without walls, “said Dimitri. He also remembers the kindness of strangers who helped his family clean up after the disaster, prompting him to take time off from the family restaurant business and drive two hours with his son to offer their assistance to distressed families. “A lot of people of Baton Rouge aren’t getting the help they need like we did after Hurricane Katrina. I know what a difference it made for us, and this is my chance to pay it forward.”
The clean up efforts by Orthodox Christian volunteers have been warmly welcomed, but the needs in Baton Rouge are still great as flood survivors face the slow and costly path to recovery, according to IOCC US Country Representative Dan Christopulos. “The outpouring of support and willingness to help has been tremendous, especially in offering to help people in the community,” he said. Along with the volunteer clean-up crews, 1,000 school kits and 500 clean-up buckets provided by Orthodox Christians and ecumenical partners have been distributed to Louisiana flood victims in six counties. “
“We encourage Orthodox volunteers to continue to assist in the recovery with local IOCC relief partners once we leave the area. The most effective way that people who are not able to offer hands-on help but wish to support these efforts is by making a financial contribution or by assembling kits,“ added Christopulos.
Many areas affected around Baton Rouge were not thought to be at high risk for flooding. The flooding and natural disasters are a reminder to all families to be prepared for disasters and have a family emergency plan. Severe summer weather has left a path of destruction across the US. In addition to the Louisiana flood relief, IOCC and Orthodox Christian volunteers around the country have also responded to their neighbors in need with cleanup assistance in the aftermath of floods in West Virginia, Missouri and Minnesota.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Make a donation. You can help the victims of disasters in the United States, like the floods in Florida, West Virginia, Missouri and Minnesota, by making a financial gift to the United States Emergency Response Fund. Your support will provide immediate relief as well as long-term support through emergency aid, recovery assistance and other support to help those in need. To make a gift, please visit iocc.org, call toll free at 1-877-803-IOCC (4622), or mail a check or money order payable to IOCC, P.O. Box 17398, Baltimore, MD 21297-0429.
Assemble emergency kits. IOCC also anticipates the need for emergency clean-up buckets which are in low supply. For directions on how to assemble emergency clean-up buckets, please visit www.iocc.org/kits.
Prepare a household disaster preparedness kit and emergency plan like the one offered at ready.gov/kit
ABOUT INTERNATIONAL ORTHODOX CHRISTIAN CHARITIES
IOCC is the official humanitarian aid agency of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of the United States of America. Since its inception in 1992, IOCC has delivered $580 million in relief and development programs to families and communities in more than 50 countries. IOCC is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy. To learn more about IOCC, please visit our website at iocc.org.
PHOTO: Dimitri Poulos and son Andreas work side by clear to clear out waterlogged items from a house flooded during heavy rains in Baton Rouge. The pair traveled from New Orleans to join other IOCC Orthodox Action Team volunteers to help flood victims with clean up of their damaged homes. IOCC has been on the ground in Louisiana since last month, responding to the needs of flood victims and rallying local Orthodox volunteers to assist their neighbors in need. Credit: Dan Christopulos/IOCC
Hi-res image available upon request.