NEW ORLEANS, LA (August 28, 2015) — The “extreme generosity of Covenant people” was what prompted Covenant World Relief (CWR) to respond to the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago today. It was the first time the organization had ever assisted in relief and reconstruction efforts in the United States, said Jim Sundholm, the former director.
“We had to decide what we were going to do. We could have just passed money through some organizations, which often is the best way to help, but we realized we could more directly help the poorest people,” Sundholm said.
A primary area in which the Covenant helped rebuild was the town of Phoenix in rural Plaquemines Parish, which could only be reached by ferry. “It was a place where the homes of grandparents and parents and brothers and sisters were all destroyed so there was no one else to help,” Sundholm said.
Covenanters working in Plaquemines Parish helped reconstruct or build more than 250 homes, Sundholm said. The work was ultimately coordinated by Michael Gromer, a contractor who attended Hillcrest Covenant Church in Prairie Village, Kansas, and was an early responder. “This would not have happened without Michael Gromer,” Sundholm said.
“When you consider the amount of funds donated to CWR and the number of people who participated in the work in New Orleans, I believe that this was the largest response to a disaster in the history of the ECC,” said Dave Husby, the current CWR director.
“I meet frequently Covenanters who share with me that their experience participating in the recovery work after Katrina was one of the highlights of their lives,” Husby added.
More than three years after the disaster, Covenant World Relief funds still were being used for recovery work.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished,” Sundholm said.
Other churches, such as Crossroads Covenant Church in Loveland, Colorado, carried out projects in other parts of the state. Churches in Houston, Burnsville, Minnesota, and Mound Bayou, Mississippi, worked with New Orleans residents who fled the city.
To read a 2006 feature on the Covenant’s work, click Phoenix—A Witness to God’s Goodness in Midst of Turmoil.
A 2007 Covenant Companion article “Up from the Ashes” highlighted the Covenant’s work in Phoenix.