Diocesan Catholic Charities receives $50,000 grant



CHARLESTON — Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Charleston was recently awarded a grant of $51,575 from the Disaster Advisory Committee of Catholic Charities USA to help continue with long-term recovery efforts from last year’s Hurricane Floyd.

Dorothy Grillo, director of Social Ministry for the diocese, stated in her application for funds that many people are still strugging and displaced in the Pee Dee area even at the one-year anniversary of the hurricane.

In a second collection taken up in the diocese in October of 1999, more than $117,000 was donated for recovery efforts. This was in addition to a $10,000 emergency grant provided by Catholic Charities USA. Grillo and Diane Bullard of Pee Dee Catholic Charities received the emergency grant check from Bishop Robert J. Baker immediately following the hurricane at an Oct. 3 Mass at St. James Church in Conway.

The bishop wanted to visit the area to see firsthand the damage caused in the disaster’s aftermath. This provided the impetus for the planning efforts begun this spring.

“The are still fantastic needs in the Pee Dee,” said Grillo, who added that a portion of the grant will be given in the form of direct financial assistance to some families. She said that some damaged homes are just now being purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency at 75 percent of their value.

Grillo said, “It’s difficult for people to realize that long term recovery means long term.”

Funds from the national grant will also be used to kick off the “Masters of Disaster” educational program for Catholic school children. The program, developed by the American Red Cross, consists of ready to go lesson plans for integrating disaster preparedness and safety instruction into standard academic classes. Activities and teaching plans are geared to students in kindergarten through second grade, third through fifth grade, and sixth through eighth grade.

Gary Gelo, superintendent of schools for the diocese, will present the program at a principal’s meeting in November, and the materials should arrive in the next several months.

“It’s an exciting new project,” said Grillo.

In addition, money will also be available for continuing education meetings related to disaster relief next hurricane season.

Grillo herself has taken American Red Cross disaster training for “Mass Care” and “Shelter Operations” and one parish, St. Philip Neri in Fort Mill, had 70 parishioners go through Red Cross training.

The director of Social Ministry said that a component of next year’s program will be specifically geared to the Spanish community, continuing efforts begun this year.

“There have been many hours of work put in by the parishes, and we’ve received wonderful support from across the diocese,” said Grillo. “The grant validates our efforts, as we’ve gotten positive feedback from Catholic Charities USA about our planning.”

For the diocesan Catholic Charities staff, whose disaster reponse work has been done in addition to their regular duties, planning will gear up once again in the spring for the 2001 hurricane season.