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First UUA-UUSC grants to Gulf Coast groups

Four Louisiana and Mississippi community groups serve displaced and vulnerable people affected by Hurricane Katrina.
By Donald E. Skinner

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The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations and the UU Service Committee are making the first grants to community organizations this week from $3.1 million donated to the UUA-UUSC Gulf Coast Relief Fund.

Martha Thompson, manager of the UUSC’s Rights in Humanitarian Crises program, said the UUA and UUSC are signing contracts with four groups in New Orleans and Mississippi and will disburse $100,000 among them. The contracts mark the first disbursement from the relief fund to community groups since it was established shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Of the grants, $25,000 is going to the Vietnamese Initiative on Economic Training to form a team of Vietnamese women to help members of the Vietnamese community in New Orleans navigate Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance regulations.

The second grant, for $35,000, goes to two interfaith groups, Working Interfaith Network (Baton Rouge) and All Congregations Together (New Orleans) to support them in representing displaced families in the public debate over the future of New Orleans and Louisiana.

The third grant, for $15,000, goes to the East Biloxi, Miss., Relief and Coordination Center to help residents access aid and develop a vision of how reconstruction will occur.

The final grant, for $25,000, goes to the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Alliance* as it seeks to protect immigrant workers from evictions, threats of deportation, and unfair labor practices.

The Rev. Meg Riley, director of the UUA’s Advocacy and Witness Staff Group and chair of a panel established to oversee disbursement of the relief fund, said significant grant-making had not happened until now because community groups and residents needed time to return to New Orleans and Mississippi and reestablish themselves.

Earlier, the panel gave $25,000 to each of the three Unitarian Universalist congregations in the New Orleans area—First UU Church, Community Church UU, and North Shore UU Society—and to Spindletop UU Church in Beaumont, Texas, which was damaged by Hurricane Rita. Another $25,000 grant is being shared by three small UU congregations in damaged areas of Mississippi.

By Friday, November 11, donors had contributed more than $3.14 million to the fund, which will address longterm needs in the region and help revitalize UU ministry in the area.

Correction 1.28.06: An earlier version of this story mistakenly named the grant recipient as the Mississippi Immigrant Rights Association. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.

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