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 CNS Story:

JACOBS-FUND Sep-19-2008 (540 words) xxxn

Louisiana bishop sets up fund to help diocese, residents after storms

By Louis G. Aguirre
Catholic News Service

HOUMA, La. (CNS) -- Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Houma-Thibodaux has established a disaster relief fund for the diocese in hopes of raising some of the more than $10 million needed to cope with both humanitarian and diocesan needs in the wake of hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

"The needs are urgent and great," said Bishop Jacobs, explaining that early estimates indicate that 20,000 homes have been damaged by wind and water. "Many of our people are still without electricity and they are in desperate need of cleaning supplies, food, water and the basic necessities of life."

Diocesan Catholic Social Services and its Matthew 25 Project have had representatives on-site since immediately after both hurricanes, serving meals, providing funds for food and gasoline, and delivering cleaning kits.

The bishop estimated that as of Sept. 18 about 32,000 prepared hot meals have been served and 2,400 cleaning kits delivered. Volunteers have provided 7,000 hours of work. The diocese also has distributed $10,000 in gasoline cards.

"Some of our more vulnerable people are the undocumented Hispanics who are, in some instances, not able to receive benefits," said Bishop Jacobs. The diocese has distributed thousands of dollars in emergency food and gasoline cards.

Early estimates indicate the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux has sustained at least $5 million in damages to its properties. While the diocese has property and casualty insurance, many facilities are subject to hefty deductibles because of previous storms.

"Indications are that approximately 86 percent of our parishes, schools and institutions have been damaged," said the bishop. The damage ranges from major to minor, including losses of more than $1 million at the Cathedral of St. Francis de Sales in Houma and at its elementary school.

Because Masses were canceled for the weekend prior to the arrival of Gustav and services for the following two weekends have been disrupted in the aftermath of that storm and the devastation of Ike, the bishop estimated that there will be substantial losses in the contributions parishes count on for their weekly expenses.

Gustav roared through Louisiana Sept. 1. Ike made landfall in Texas Sept. 13, but the effects of the hurricane were felt in as many as 10 states.

At least 12 buildings in the Houma-Thibodaux Diocese will require new roofs and although insurance will not cover standing-seam metal roofing to replace them, the bishop said he was hopeful some of the funds raised may be used to this end.

Standing-seam roofing is made up of panels of metal connected with raised seams, as opposed to panels that overlap one another.

"There is no sense in us replacing these roofs with average roofing materials," said the bishop. "The roofs we replaced with metal after hurricanes Katrina and Rita have withstood damage this time around."

Bishop Jacobs said he was hopeful that gifts will help to cover some of the expenses necessary to make these buildings safer.

- - -

Editor's Note: Individuals, Catholic Church entities or corporations wishing to help are asked to send their contributions to: Disaster Relief Fund, Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, P.O. Box 505, Schriever, LA 70395. Additionally, contributions may be sent through bill pay or PayPal on the diocesan Web site: www.htdiocese.org.


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