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Sue Bush
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Churches Form Katrina Cooperative

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, September 15, 2005

North Adams – Three Northern Berkshire churches have joined forces as The Katrina Cooperative to offer hospitality and resource services and information to those who may come to the area from locales ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

Cooperative member churches are the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ and the First Methodist Church in North Adams and St. John’s Episcopal Church in Williamstown.

Strength In Numbers

Rev. Jill Graham, pastor of the First Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, said during a Sept. 15 interview that church officials believed that the churches could accomplish more good together than as separate entities. Linked as a cooperative, the three churches can share resources and ideas as opposed to duplicating services and vying for support, Graham said.

“This [cooperative] began even before we knew that people would be coming to the Cape [hurricane evacuee shelters in the Cape Cod area],” Graham said. “We knew that transportation would be a challenge.”

Invitations Extended to Hurricane Victims

Graham was referring to the costs associated with moving from the Gulf Coast to the region. Numerous Northern Berkshire families have posted offers to share their homes with evacuees on Internet web sites such as HurricaneHousing.org; a review of Northern Berkshire home-sharing offers posted on that site revealed over 30 offers from residents of Clarksburg, North Adams, Adams, Williamstown, Savoy, Lanesboro, Dalton, and the nearby Vermont communities of Pownal and Bennington. A check of KatrinaHousing.org indicated that 13 different families or individuals from communities including Cheshire have offered shelter to hurricane victims.

Both sites emphasize that background checks are not completed on those answering a post or those posting a housing offer.

There are several additional web sites that allow people to post home offers to hurricane evacuees.

Hurricane displaced families and students are beginning to arrive in the Northern Berkshires and the cooperative hopes to be able to contact any new arrivals and offer support and information about community resources, Graham said.

In a prepared statement, cooperative member Susan Morrill cited some specific challenges that evacuees may encounter as residents of an unfamiliar locale.

Working Together

“In addition to a stable home, they will need some or all of the following; utilities, groceries, insurance, clothing, medicine, health care counseling, jobs, schooling, furnishings, and transportation,” Morrill said in the statement.

Individuals, businesses, and organizations are invited to list any resources or services that may be available with the Katrina Cooperative. According to the prepared statement, the ecumenical group is hoping that free or reduced cost services and resources will be made available to hurricane survivors.

Graham said that she is encouraging people to consider making hurricane donations locally so that items can be used to help evacuees who seek shelter in the region.

Those with information about families or individuals coming to the region as a result of Hurricane Katrina, and any entity interested in listing with the cooperative may contact Graham at 413-663-9940.

Any Northern Berkshire group or organization with a purpose similar to the cooperative is also encouraged to contact Graham so that services and resources can be delivered in a manner that offers maximum benefit, she said.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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