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400+ Churches, Synagogues, Temples Hit By Charley


Global Agency Addressing State's Most Vulnerable


ORLANDO/NEW YORK ­ Mon 8/23­ - Humanitarian agency Church World Service (CWS) says it has so far found at least five migrant farmworker communities in Central Florida severely affected by Hurricane Charley and is continuing to assess additional affected farmworker groups. CWS has also identified some 400 mid-Florida churches, temples and synagogues damaged by the storm.

The global agency's Domestic Disaster Response and Recovery Liaisons are focusing on assessing the needs of vulnerable populations impacted by Charley and are assessing damages and existing resources in the area's spiritual community.

"The region's migrant farm workers received a double hit," says Church World Service (CWS) disaster response specialist and Miami resident Lesli Remaly.

"For many, their homes or shelter were damaged, and now they have no jobs." >From a region that represents approximately one third of Florida's citrus output, official reports indicate much of the citrus crops across central Florida were lost.

CWS' Heriberto Martinez said this morning (Mon 8/23), "We're now working with 15 migrant farmworker agencies to develop recovery plans and determine ways to respond to immediate needs."

Working today from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)'s Disaster Field Office in Orlando, CWS' Remaly added, "We are also aware of many low income families who are in need along the Route 17 and Route 27 corridors that run north and south through central Florida­ and we're assessing those needs for best response."

"There is particular concern for those who were vulnerable even before Charley," Remaly said. "So we're determining the immediate and long-term recovery needs of the uninsured and the under-insured, the elderly and disabled, those who live alone, the homeless, and such groups as migrant farm workers, immigrants, people whose first language isn't English, the Seminole, Miccousukee and other native groups in impacted areas."

Global agency Church World Service is one of the first aid agencies called by FEMA along with the Red Cross in a national disaster.

New-York based CWS responds to natural and human-caused disasters internationally and domestically and in the U.S. specializes in working with local faith communities, social service agencies and emergency management partners, assisting vulnerable populations.

"Despite the destruction to buildings and infrastructure, those of our denominational partners in the region who are functioning are beginning to mobilize in certain areas and are working directly to provide services to those who are most in need," Remaly said.

"We're still identifying church camps and sites that were not damaged, as centers to house thousands of volunteers who've come from all over the U.S. and who are currently staying in hotels and motels that may still be needed to house survivors. This is just one way the faith community comes to the frontlines in times of disaster," she says.

Remaly reports that 40 faith based organizations have stationed work teams for the major cleanup still remaining from Hurricane Charley's path of havoc last weekend, "and for filing the gap in communities that are not presently receiving assistance from other sources.

"We're also working with the Department of Elder Affairs to address the tremendous elderly population with medical concerns here who were seriously impacted by the storm. Many have no home, nothing left. And that's a crisis for even the youngest and healthiest."

In a Florida Sun-Sentinel report yesterday (Sun 8/21), the state's Department of Elderly Affairs Secretary Terry White said, "What we have is a very frail population and a serious housing issue. The impact of this is huge."

Officials said health problems are expected to mount and specially trained mental health experts from across the country who are there now say they fear a mental health crisis among impacted elderly, in that less money is available for mental health services than in previous years.

CWS' Remaly said, "This is also a spiritual crisis. It's key that we provide support to the region's impacted interfaith organizations, so that they are able to provide the material and spiritual resources people traditionally turn to them for."

Officials said Sunday that 25 deaths have now been attributed to Charley. The storm has caused an estimated $7.4 billion in damage to homes, businesses and personal possessions, topping damages from Hurricane Andrew. According to this morning's Associated Press reports, the Red Cross in recent days has housed about 1,100 people in the area that stretches from southwest Florida to near Orlando. Thousands of others are living in damaged homes or with friends or family. 77,000 families in Florida have registered for disaster relief.

Church World Service provides sustainable self-help and development, disaster relief, advocacy and refugee assistance worldwide and is supported in part by 36 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican denominations.

EDITORS NOTE: Please add the following source to your listings of agencies accepting contributions for relief assistance to victims of Hurricane Charley:

To support relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Charley through Church World Service: phone (800) 297-1516; make a secure credit card contribution online at; or send your check by mail to: Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN, 46515


CONTACTS: Jan Dragin/New York/Boston Phone: (781) 925-1526 ­ 24/7 e-mail:

Christina Bahamonde/CWS/New York Phone: (212) 870-2658 e-mail:

© Scoop Media

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