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Network Diocese of Quincy Spearheads Ongoing Hurricane Disaster Relief Efforts

Pittsburgh, PA - The Rev. Phil Fleming of St. Peter's Parish in Canton, Illinois, has been at the center of hurricane relief efforts on behalf of the Network Diocese of Quincy for 14 months since hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the gulf coast last fall. Fleming, who is a Deacon and Disaster Response Coordinator for the Diocese of Quincy, was sent by Bishop Keith L. Ackerman to Louisiana and Mississippi with money and supplies. After six trips to do relief work in the gulf coast region, his zeal for this mission field has not waned.

Fleming has used the tens of thousands of dollars donated through the Anglican Communion Network (ACN) and other groups to purchase and deliver hundreds of pounds of survival supplies, bibles, hymnals and prayer books as well as emergency funding to parishes across Mississippi and Louisiana. Part of the monies helped pay for the use of a 40-foot recreational vehicle leased by St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Baton Rouge (now operated through the Diocese of Louisiana) which serves as a mobile relief unit and makes trips five days a week to the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans.

Fleming worked with church leaders in the Diocese of Western Louisiana - the Rev. Paul Milligan, Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Abbéville, and the Rev. Liz Ratcliff, Diocesan Coordinator for Episcopal Relief and Development - to establish a $10,000 no-interest revolving loan fund to the Vermillion Parish Faith Community of Care in Abbéville for "fall-between-the-cracks" types of ministries and needs in the area. The Diocese of Quincy also assisted with emergency grants to college students in these areas who had lost all their textbooks.

In New Orleans, the Diocese of Quincy has coordinated its relief efforts with Father Jerry Kramer, Rector of Church of the Annunciation, a Network parish. Kramer recently spoke at Quincy's Diocesan Synod about where things stand today: "Fewer than half the people have returned to New Orleans, mostly due to the lack of housing and infrastructure. Sixty percent of the churches in New Orleans have not re-opened since Katrina."

"Although it will take ten years to rebuild these areas back to where they were," said Fleming, "churches like Annunciation are continuing to advance the cause of the Gospel by keeping the focus on mission and not maintenance, even in their horrific circumstances. That should be inspiring to churches everywhere!"

Kramer's parish has been a daily distribution center for water, food and other essential supplies. Thousands of people are still coming every day. The parish has also hosted thousands of short-term mission team volunteers from around the country. Though Annunciation has not been able to use its church building due to hurricane damage, it has not missed a service since Katrina hit. The parish now uses a double-wide trailer as its church which also serves as a respite center and community center while another trailer serves as church offices.

In addition, Annunciation has already planted a church called All Souls' Mission in the Lower Ninth Ward and has plans to launch a Spanish-speaking mission in another part of the city to meet the needs of the growing population of Spanish speakers now moving into the New Orleans area.

"We're currently working on a project with Annunciation and a local New Orleans supermarket to provide 100 families with turkey dinners that will be distributed during Thanksgiving week," said Fleming. A $35 donation will provide a Thanksgiving meal to a family that would not otherwise have one.

"We're ready for more contributions, to fund one turkey dinner or to rebuild an entire church," said Fleming, "We simply must continue to support rebuilding efforts in these devastated areas. This is and will continue to be the mission field in our own backyard for years to come."

Donations can be sent to the Diocese of Quincy, 601 W. Florence Avenue, Peoria, IL 61604-1517, marked for the disaster relief fund. Fleming will be making his next trip to New Orleans over the weekend prior to Thanksgiving to help deliver the dinners.

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