As of September 28, a total of $343,072.19 has been contributed to the EPC’s Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma emergency relief funds.
“The ‘above and beyond’ giving of our churches and members has been amazing,” said Jeff Jeremiah, EPC Stated Clerk. “I’m so thankful for the generosity they’ve demonstrated. We’re also overwhelmed with other offers to help, especially churches who want to send work teams to these affected areas.”
In Texas, $262,000 of the $303,030.94 contributed to the Hurricane Harvey fund as of September 28 has already been distributed to six EPC churches in the area affected by Harvey:
- Christ Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Houston (Richard Harris, pastor)
- City of Refuge Church in Houston (Ikki Soma, pastor)
- Cornerstone Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Katy (Carter Sanger, pastor)
- Covenant Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Lake Jackson (Alan Trafford, pastor)
- Edna Presbyterian Church in Edna (Michel Yonts, pastor)
- Vietnamese Christian Fellowship in Houston (Daniel Nguyen, pastor)
On September 26, these six pastors met with Jeremiah via conference call to allocate up to $196,000.
“Our pastors expressed gratitude for this outpouring of support from the EPC,” Jeremiah noted. “As they discussed relief needs in their church and community, they acknowledged that while the need is overwhelming, they are still in a ‘cleanup and dry out phase’ and don’t yet know what actual costs will be for those affected by Harvey.”
Jeremiah said the group decided that those with damaged homes who do not have flood insurance would be “first in line” to receive aid.
“Those with flood insurance can receive up to $250,000,” he said. “But those without flood insurance are only eligible for up to $33,000—and only if FEMA determines the damaged home is inhabitable.
The following allocations were made:
- EPC Chaplain Aaron Laenger, whose single-level home was flooded with more than seven feet of water for a week, received $10,000.
- Vietnamese Christian Fellowship pastor Daniel Nguyen, whose home also suffered significant damage, received $10,000.
- Edna pastor Michel Yonts reported that his congregation and community were recovering well and needed just $10,000.
- The remaining $166,000 was equally divided among the remaining four churches—each of which committed to reporting how these funds were used in relief work.
Jeremiah said the pastors described the unusual and immense burden of responsibility to their congregation and community each was carrying.
“Many are getting by on as little as three hours of sleep a night as they minister to the victims of Harvey,” Jeremiah said. “Please pray that they would get the rest they need and are protected from illness in this extraordinary time.”
In a previous conference call on September 5, these church leaders discussed with Jeremiah how to distribute the $66,000 that had been received in the Harvey fund up to then.
“It was decide to allocate $10,000 to each church to help with the immediate costs of members whose homes were no longer habitable,” Jermiah said. In addition, Laenger received $6,000 to help cover immediate living costs.
“In most cases, these homes had sustained flooding for seven days or more,” Jeremiah added.
“An example of a family that was helped is a retired couple who will have to replace their roof,” he said. “Being on a fixed income, covering the insurance deductible as well as their short-term living expenses was going to be a major challenge.”
In Florida, $36,000 of the $40,041.25 contributed to the Hurricane Irma fund as of September 28 has been distributed to the three EPC churches in the disaster area:
- New Hope Presbyterian Church in Fort Myers (Eddie Spencer, pastor)
- Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville (Matthew Everhard, pastor)
- First Presbyterian Church in Orlando (David Swanson, pastor, with Tanner Fox leading the relief effort).
On September 26, Jeremiah and these pastors met via conference call to discuss ways the contributions could help meet needs in their congregations and communities.
Jeremiah noted that the pastors in Florida echoed the appreciation offered by the pastors in Texas, and also expressed concern for our churches in Puerto Rico—where Hurricane Maria made landfall with widespread impact 10 days after Irma lashed Florida.
“While each pastor reported they were still learning about the needs in their congregations, with some exceptions it appeared as if they escaped with relatively minor damage,” Jeremiah said.
He reported that the group decided to focus aid effort on church members whose homes had been damaged by the storm. New Hope received $8,000; First Orlando received $5,000; and Faith received $23,000—of the three congregations, Brooksville had the greatest number of homes that were damaged. Each church committed to report how these relief funds were used.
During the storm, New Hope and Faith served as shelters for their communities. Spencer said New Hope had “a memorable worship service on September 10 with about 100 people, 16 dogs, 4 cats and a rabbit.” First Orlando had offered their facility as a storm shelter, but it was not needed.
In addition, New Hope is raising funds locally to help the relief work in Immokalee, an under-resourced, largely agricultural community about 30 miles southeast of Fort Myers with a large migrant worker population and many trailer homes.