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October 7, 2015 | 24th Tishrei 5776

UPDATED Disaster Relief Grant Descriptions



Jacobs' Ladder: A Project of the Union for Reform Judaism - $125,000
The need for food and other daily necessities is overwhelming. And so, as Reform Jews, we have no choice but to respond and help. Jacobs' Ladder: A Relief Project of the Union for Reform Judaism is a vital new part of our response. Reform Jews across North America are collecting food and supplies and shipping them to the Union’s Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, MS.

Working in partnership with the town of Utica, the Union and Jacobs Camp are operating a staging and distribution center for relief supplies from a warehouse provided by the city. The center is collecting supplies and distributing them through a number of local and regional ministries and relief centers that serve the greater Jackson community, the population of which has doubled with displaced families since the storm. 

Enterprise Corporation of the Delta ( - $60,000
The Shefa Fund introduced the Union to the exceptional work of the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta which has now received two grants from the Union totaling $60,000..The Enterprise Corporation of the Delta is a not-for-profit community development financial institution that builds assets, strengthens lives and improves the quality of life in distressed Mid South communities. Through the ECD Hurricane Katrina Relief Fund, Enterprise Corporation of the Delta/ Hope Community Credit Union (ECD/HOPE) is participating in the immediate and the long-term storm recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi.Initially, donated funds will be routed to community partners who are providing food, clothing and shelter for those in Louisiana and Mississippi who were displaced by the storm. As these basic needs lessen, funds will support payment deferrals, provide down payment assistance, establish loss reserves, and otherwise extend a bridge to those recovering from this tragedy. In this role, ECD/HOPE will build on twelve years of experience in strengthening distressed areas to help residents rebuild their lives, homes, businesses and communities.

Tthe organization shifted focus on a moment's notice to respond to FEMA’s decision to stop distributing cash debit cards and instead direct deposit funds into affected peoples’ bank accounts.  Because so few of the poorest residents of the area had a bank account to be able to take advantage of the new relief funds, the ECD set up mobile branches in shelters to open credit union accounts so that all affected people could receive FEMA funds. 

Shefa Fund/Jewish Fund for Justice Hurricane Katrina Recovery and Redevelopment Fund - $60,000
The Hurricane Katrina Recovery and Redevelopment Fund’s goal is to focus resources on the long-term redevelopment needs of the disaster's most neglected victims.  Its commitment to the region will extend over at least the next three years. Shefa/JFJ will make strategic grants for both community development and community organizing focused on the Gulf Coast’s low-income communities, which have been disproportionately affected by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. 

The Fund will direct grants and deposits to community development organizations working with low-income residents to repair and rebuild neighborhoods, businesses and family finances affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Based on Shefa Fund’s advice, URJ has already supported the Jackson, MS-based Enterprise Corporation of the Delta (ECD), a local community development financial institution (CDFI), and its New Orleans-based Hope Community Credit Union (HOPE).  Shefa intends to invest in ECD/HOPE and other CDFIs over the long-term to support payment deferrals, provide down payment assistance, establish loss reserves, and otherwise extend a bridge to those recovering from this tragedy.

Shefa is working with the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions to identify, reach and support the entire cluster of about a dozen community development credit unions that dot the entire Delta area. Their work with individuals, families, small businesses and entire communities in the region has been -- and will now even more urgently be -- a core element of the effort to restore and rebuild homes, social services and economic networks in several dozen impoverished communities.

The Working Interfaith Network of Baton Rouge - $60,000
While in Baton Rouge, Jacob Fain met with the Working Interfaith Network (WIN), a PICO faith based community organizing network that is part of the state wide LIFT (Louisiana Interfaith Together) network.  This coalition of more than 30 churches in Baton Rouge has a tremendously important role in coordinating the relief to reconstruction transition for that city.  Many of the churches are providing direct relief services, and WIN is helping them do that.  WIN/LIFT staff are engaged in a massive effort to work in both large official shelters and smaller community-run shelters to listen to the needs of families, help them access services and provide a way for them to act together to protect their interests.  They have expressed a need to add staff to teach and coach displaced families in obtaining the short and long-term assistance and building the organization they need to rebuild their lives.

ACORN - - $50,000
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, is the nation's largest community organization of low- and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities.  Since 1970, ACORN has grown to more than 175,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in 75 cities across the U.S. and abroad; including a regional headquarters in New Orleans.

ACORN is working to unite community members to face the challenges at hand by locating and assisting displaced members with food, shelter, and medical assistance, and servicing the housing and credit needs of those in need.  Even as it works to meet these immediate needs, ACORN will organize those affected by the Hurricane to ensure that low income neighborhoods and families get the help they need and a voice in decisions about rebuilding.  To that end, ACORN is establishing temporary office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and Houston, Texas to serve affected populations.

Houston Habitat for Humanity - $50,000


Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV) - $50,000
Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence (LCADV) is working to protect survivors of domestic violence and child abuse who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Because of the hurricane, all direct services for survivors of domestic violence in the gulf coast region have been suspended. Several women’s shelters have been completely destroyed; others were forced to evacuate. The thousands of women and children who were in those shelters require urgent assistance.

Compounding the situation is the fact that domestic violence rates increase significantly in the wake of disaster, as abusers react to their own trauma with violence and a vain attempt to reassert control in the face of chaos and loss (which we have seen and responded to in Sri Lanka through our Tsunami relief efforts). 

The LCADV reports that many women are afraid to register with the Red Cross for fear that their batterers will use the registry to find them. And the LCADV has received reports that women are being battered by their partners in the emergency shelters set up since the hurricane. LCADV is accepting donations that are earmarked to assist battered hurricane survivors and their children. Funds will be used to:

  1. Relocate domestic violence survivors displaced by the hurricane.
  2. Purchase basic necessities, such as baby formula, food, diapers, and clothing.
  3. Pay for medical treatment and prescription medications.
  4. Pay for car repairs, gas, and public transportation to bring women and their children to safe housing in other communities.

Children’s Health Fund - $50,000
The Children’s Health Fund is an 18-year old organization that has been providing comprehensive health care to medically underserved children and families in communities throughout the U.S., including Mississippi, Arkansas, Florida, and Texas. They deliver primary health care with the help of mobile medical facilities that bring state of the art medical equipment to areas without adequate permanent health clinics.  Each mobile unit is staffed with a team of medical professions, consisting of at least a doctor, a nurse, and a mental health professional.

The Children’s Health Fund has responded to the Hurricane by dispatching the mobile health facilities that had been serving urban and rural communities in Mississippi, Arkansas and Florida to the affected region to provide immediate relief.  They are currently raising funds to purchase three additional mobile clinics so that they can continue to provide relief services in the Gulf and at the same time restore service to the areas they had been serving.  As the process moves from relief to reconstruction, Children’s Health Fund plans to establish permanent health services in the affected region and is currently building partnerships with local health providers.  Each mobile clinic costs approximately $300,000.

AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families - $30,000
More than 8,000 HIV+ people were displaced by the hurricane in Louisiana alone.  The AIDS Alliance for Children, Youth & Families and its local affiliate HIV/AIDS programs that serve women, children, youth, and families have been profoundly affected by the hurricane. More than a dozen member clinics were in the area hit hardest by Katrina, and scores more are providing support for evacuees.  The funds will be used to support the emergency needs of families and young people living with HIV/AIDS and will be disbursed directly through existing local program infrastructure.

American Friends Service Committee - $30,000
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. It has already allocated $1 million towards hurricane relief efforts and has activated its emergency response team to assess critical needs in the region and to determine the most effective and efficient methods of service delivery. Staff in the southeastern region will coordinate with Friends organizations and other groups in the area.AFSC has extensive experience in disaster relief efforts, including aid to immigrant farm and nursery workers, and decent housing for low-income residents in South Florida after Hurricane Andrew, and Long-term recovery and development projects for flood disaster victims and rural farmers in Iowa. Last year, the URJ has supported AFSC relief efforts in Haiti following Hurricane Jeanne last September. 

America's Second Harvest
) - $30,000
America's Second Harvest—The Nation’s Food Bank Network is the largest domestic hunger-relief organization in the United States. Today, the national Network secures and distributes nearly two billion pounds of food and grocery products to more than 200 regional food banks and food-rescue organizations in all 50 states. As of noon on Monday, September 5, America’s Second Harvest had already dispatched nearly 200 Semi truckloads carrying disaster relief food and grocery products. A total of 6.4 million Pounds of food and grocery have been delivered, the equivalent of more than 5 million meals.

International Medical Corps  - $30,000
IMC is a global humanitarian nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and relieving suffering through health care training and medical relief programs. Last week, IMC sent a team of public health experts with experience in responding to international emergency and disaster situations to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is currently preparing to provide counseling and psycho-social services to those affected by the hurricane – an area in which it has extensive experience. IMC is also partnering with organizations like America’s Second Harvest to integrate its programs into existing shelter and feeding efforts.International Medical Corps is also a URJ partner in Tsunami Relief and Sudan Relief.

Direct Relief International  - $30,000
Direct Relief International is a non-profit, non-sectarian humanitarian assistance that for 56 years has provided medical material assistance in the form of pharmaceuticals, supplies, and new and refurbished medical equipment to over 3,000 charitable health facilities worldwide and within the United States. In 2004, the organization provided more than $122 million (wholesale value) in medicines, supplies and equipment to health projects in 54 countries, enough provisions to keep hundreds of local health professionals and clinics productively engaged and provide full courses of medical treatment for over 20 million people.

Direct Relief International is partnering with community and free clinics in the hurricane affected areas to provide medical assistance with an initial $250,000 in cash, and access to medical inventories valued at nearly $35 million (wholesale). The Union has also supported Direct Relief International’s Tsunami relief efforts.

Mercy Corps ( - $30,000
Mercy Corps is a non-sectarian development organization dedicated to alleviating suffering, poverty, and oppression by helping people build secure, productive, and just communities. In the coming weeks and months, Mercy Corps will focus on four strategic program areas:

  • Emergency Relief: Mercy Corps will provide critical financial, technical and material aid support to survivors of the disaster. This includes provision of shelter, food, water, sanitation and health care to displaced populations. Emergency relief will be provided in coordination with the efforts of other relief organizations.
  • Community Mobilization: Participation of local communities in their own recovery and rebuilding process is critical for the long term success and sustainability of a program. This is also critical in overcoming psychosocial trauma and beginning to rebuild the bonds of community. Mercy Corps will work with local groups to support their own rebuilding and recovery process in geographic areas where this is possible.
  • Psychosocial Programs: The effect of a disaster like Hurricane Katrina can have a lasting traumatic impact on the survivors, especially children. Children in particular are vulnerable to trauma, as it is more difficult for them to make sense of what happened. Mercy Corps will support psychosocial programs that help the survivors overcome their trauma, with a special emphasis on children. We will work with schools, daycare centers, children’s service agencies and other local groups to provide appropriate psychosocial support to children. We will focus on activities that restore healthy activities and routines for children, as well as ways to engage the children themselves in the planning and implementation of programs.
  • Economic Recovery: Mercy Corps will work with local groups to help poor families rebuild their livelihoods. These programs will include helping people rebuild their businesses, create employment and earn income. The quicker families can get back on their feet economically and become independent, the quicker their communities will get back to normal. 

    Mercy Corps is also a URJ partner in Tsunami Relief and Sudan Relief.

Oxfam America ( - $30,000
Oxfam America is a development and relief agency that works with local partners to help people escape poverty. Oxfam America’s domestic work focuses on the rural poor, especially African Americans, Native Americans, women, and immigrants.Oxfam is concerned that some of the region’s poorest residents, particularly those in rural areas of Louisiana and Mississippi, may be bypassed by much of the relief and recovery effort. Katrina has devastated many people in rural communities—especially African-American farmers, migrant farm workers, and immigrant dock workers. These are communities with some of the most profound and entrenched poverty in the nation. The hurricane ripped roofs off houses, knocked out power, blocked roads, and flattened farmers’ fields, leaving already-marginalized people homeless and with no means to support themselves. These communities’ vulnerability to Katrina’s destructive effects—reflected in the location and construction of their homes, their inability to escape from the storm’s path, and their limited resources—puts them similarly at risk of being ignored or disenfranchised during the recovery phase. Many are now without potable water, or diesel fuel to run their farm equipment. In some cases, the markets where they sold their produce have been obliterated.

For 15 years, Oxfam America has worked on economic and community development in coastal Mississippi and Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta through the partner organizations we are now supporting with these emergency grants. Over the weekend, Oxfam distributed food, supplies, and electric generators to two congregations in east Biloxi, Mississippi, that are providing up to 1,000 meals a day and sheltering up to 200 people a night. A $30,000 grant to Voices of Hope, a local housing organization, will enable homeowners to obtain $200 vouchers to buy materials needed to make their homes watertight before another storm passes through.

Baton Rouge Area Foundation - $20,000
For over 40 years, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has united human and financial resources to enhance the quality of life in Louisiana’s capital region. The Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund will benefit those individuals evacuated to Baton Rouge from the hurricane impacted areas in Greater New Orleans, who are now unable to return for what maybe an extended period. Support from the Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund will be disbursed directly to non-profit organizations with the assessed capability to affect the greatest need among evacuees in our area, and allows the Baton Rouge Area Foundation the flexibility to act quickly and decisively.

House of Hope/Casa de Esperanza de los Ni?os ( - $20,000
Casa de Esperanza is a safe place for children in crisis due to abuse, neglect or the effects of the HIV virus. Casa de Esperanza provides residential, medical and psychological care according to the needs of each child. Counseling is also available to the parents in appropriate situations.

Casa de Esperanza is providing comprehensive services to families affected by the hurricane, including locating housing, providing medical care, job placement, and children’s services.  In the immediate aftermath of the evacuation, few of those displaced by the Hurricane have shared compounding challenges they face, such as being HIV positive.  Social service providers anticipate that these issues will begin to surface once the evacuees feel that their immediate needs such as food and shelter have been met.  Casa is also well known in Houston for their work with HIV positive children, and will likely be responsible for much of the work with that community of evacuees in Houston. (Note: We are recommending a smaller amount to this organization because it is smaller than the others and serves a smaller population.)

Equality Mississippi - $10,000
 In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, Equality Mississippi, Mississippi’s state-wide GLBT organization, responded by providing emergency relief for its members and general community members.  Equality Mississippi, and their partner Camp Sister Spirit in Ovett, MS (a camp committed to ending all forms of discrimination) were critical resources for many GLBT evacuees, providing thousands of dollars in relief supplies to this population. Their particular outreach was critical, given that much of the relief effort has been led by churches, and because many churches publicly supported an amendment to the state constitution barring same-sex marriage, many GLBT evacuees did not feel safe going to churches for relief services.  Jacobs’ Ladder has been providing supplies to Camp Sister Spirit for nearly three weeks now, and those that have visited the camp cannot speak highly enough about their work.  We recommend providing $10,000 to help them continue their relief efforts.

Jewish Federation of Baton Rouge - Katrina Relief Fund - $10,000
The small Jewish community in Baton Rouge has nearly doubled in size, along with the rest of Baton Rouge. Reaching out to nearly 1,000 Jewish evacuees from New Orleans, the community has welcomed these newcomers into their homes and community. They have sent rescue missions into New Orleans to save individuals as well as sacred scrolls and other ritual items. 

Greene Family Camp - $6,500

During Hurricane Rita, Greene Family Camp (GFC) opened its doors to provide shelter to members of the Jewish community, residents of a special needs facility and evacuated travelers stuck on the roads after local shelters were filled. GFC has been offered a challenge grant in the amount of $10,000 to cover expenses from running “Camp Rita,” as it was dubbed by the local media. The camp has already raised $3,500 in donations and is seeking an additional $6500 to obtain the full matching grant to cover the camp's expenses in housing evacuees during Rita.

Fourth District Baptist Association - $5,000
Fourth District Missionary Baptist Association had been named an official relief distribution center. The association, a group of 200-plus churches with predominantly black congregations, has been leading communal efforts to assist the thousands of evacuees from New Orleans that have relocated to Baton Rouge.


Reform Congregation mini-grants: $9,000 

Beth Israel Congregation, Jackson, MS - $10,000

Temple Beth El, San Antonio, TX - $10,000

Congregation B'nai Israel, Baton Rouge, LA -$10,000

Beth Shalom Synagogue, Baton Rouge, LA - $10,000

Gemiluth Chassodim, Alexandria, LA - $5,000

Touro Synagogue, New Orleans - $10,000

Gates of Prayer, Metarie, LA - $10,000

Northshore Jewish Congregation, Mandeville, LA - $10,000

Sinai Temple, New Orleans, LA - $10,000

Temple Emanuel, Beaumont, TX - $10,000





The Union’s Disaster Relief Fund (see is activated in response to disasters that occur both here and abroad, Thal said. In the past, it has been used to provide relief to victims of floods in Europe, earthquakes in South America, Black churches that were burned

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