Volunteers head to Cedar Rapids, IA

By February 13, 2009

USA (MNN) — Next month, volunteers will help the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee rebuild homes and lives in Iowa. Cedar Rapids, "the city that would never flood," saw waters rise 12 feet above previously-recorded levels in June 2008. People were evacuated, and over 4,000 homes were damaged or destroyed.

In mid-March, CRWRC's Disaster Response Services (DRS) will work with volunteer teams to help residents rebuild their homes.

A team of four DRS volunteers is already in place and working with volunteers to repair a parsonage and five-bedroom private home in the worst-flooded sector of the city. Volunteer teams arriving in March will stay at these homes, and repairs will be exchanged for the homes' use as lodging during the long-term project. In a few weeks, a team of 16 to 20 DRS volunteers will travel to Cedar Rapids and repair homes for homeowners with no other option for rebuilding their lives.

"We work with the poorest of the poorest, those who fall between the cracks," say Fred and Mary Visser, DRS regional managers. "We're the cup of cold water that Christ talks about in the Bible."

The Vissers guided a recovery coalition made up local churches and community organizations through the DRS Needs Assessment to plan and direct reconstruction crews. The assessment pinpoints urgent needs and determines those who need major reconstruction assistance.

"Our job was to set up and be the contact people for the coalition," said the Vissers. "We offered preliminary help to the [recovery coalition], making recommendations, working closely with FEMA, Church World Services and other denominations."

Becky Purdom, DRS volunteer program manager, is recruiting volunteers for the reconstruction project. General volunteer teams, including highly skilled construction managers and carpenters, will stay for three-week shifts. One-week teams provide additional manpower, coming from churches across the U.S. and Canada.

"Members of our three-week teams have no costs," Purdom explains. "We reimburse them for transportation costs down and back, provide private rooms, and they eat very well. We always send along a good cook."

If you'd like to offer your skills to help the CRWRC rebuild lives, click here.

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