Wednesday, March 26, 1997
Churches hope to aid
families' long-term recovery

The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEWPORT - The spiritual guidance offered by churches puts them in a unique position to help people rebuild their identities.

So say members of the Northern Kentucky Interfaith Commission, a coalition of area churches working to help rebuild homes and public buildings damaged by flood waters in Boone, Campbell and Kenton counties.

''We are trying to hook up families with churches to provide a basis for some long-term relationships,'' said the Rev. Bill Neuroth, director of the interfaith commission.

In conjunction with the Kentucky Council of Churches and the Kentucky Interchurch Disaster Recovery Program in Lexington, the commission wants to coordinate who needs what with those offering volunteer time and supplies.

Everything from cleaning up to tearing out dry wall, providing temporary housing, and assisting in filling out federal disaster grant forms and other needs will be provided.

More than 150 groups already have volunteered; many are from out of state.

Amy Moore heard about the interfaith commission's work through a church network. After a quick phone call, she and some friends packed a truck full of cleaning supplies and hit the road, making the trip from Alabama to Northern Kentucky.

The group spent the weekend clearing ruined possessions out of homes.

Jeff Smith, an employee with the Villa Hills city department, has been using a truck, backhoe and Bobcat to help clean homes.

Another group from the United Church of Christ in New Knoxville, Ohio, has been replacing electrical hookups in Bromley.

''One of the things we've seen is that religion doesn't matter,'' commission secretary Karen Yates said. ''Everybody wants to help.''

And as the cleanup phase ends, Northern Kentucky's churches are digging in their heels for the long haul, the Rev. Bill Carp said.

Church volunteers this week will assess the needs of individuals and families, whether they endured major or minor damage. The task then is to pair up specific needs with available services.

The commission wants to help every family harmed - 77 in Boone, 550 in Campbell and 624 in Kenton.

The Kentucky Council asked the interfaith commission to spearhead this program for the Northern Kentucky counties, with a goal of starting similar programs in all 44 counties declared federal disaster areas.

As donations - financial and material - pour in, a committee will decide how to distribute goods.

If there is an excess of volunteers and services for the three Northern Kentucky counties, the aid will move south to Pendleton County, the Rev. Mr. Neuroth said.

And as the interfaith commission works to implement this program, it also will be developing a disaster-response plan.

''We hope to have a structure we can put into action if another disaster happens,'' the Rev. Mr. Carp said.

The interfaith commission has not responded to a large-scale tragedy since the tornadoes in 1986.

To volunteer or donate to the Northern Kentucky Interfaith Commission's long-term flood recovery program, call 581-2237.