500+ churches, nonprofits unite to request FEMA resources
A recently formed coalition of more than 500 churches is looking to get technical advice to maximize the reconstruction and recovery resources offered by FEMA Section 428.
Iván Casals, executive director of BCPeabody, a construction company based in Florida with operations in Puerto Rico, Rev. Heriberto Martínez, and Rev. Roberto Dieppa confirmed the program started after Hurricane María hit Puerto Rico last year.
Among the religious denominations that will benefit from this aid to repair the structures affected by the storm are the Disciples of Christ Christian Churches, the Baptist Churches of Puerto Rico, the Fuente de Agua Viva Council, the Nazarene Churches of the eastern districts and west, the Bethel Baptist Churches and the Iglesias de Jesucristo Fuente de Amor. Rehabilitation homes and independent churches are also part of the coalition, organizers said.
“We’re helping to raise those who, leaving their damages behind, took care of our communities,” said Casals.
“BCPeabody will work with the churches throughout the process, from the initial visit to the project site to the completion of the repair, reconstruction, and recovery programs. We focus on helping organizations achieve full compliance with FEMA audits and ensure full funding of projects, expeditiously and responsibly,” he added.
Section 428 of FEMA could be in effect between five and eight years, “and we have a long-term commitment to the island. We have 40 years of experience in federal regulations and service with the United States Corps of Engineers,” Casals added.
Meanwhile, Rev. Miguel Morales, general pastor of the Disciples of Christ Christian Church, explained that “after the impact of Hurricane María, many churches in Puerto Rico became water and food distribution centers, as well as recovery centers. We offered services such as water purification, food preparation, hygiene, and provided shelter to families who lost their homes. “
“It was not until the emergency response stage that we began to address church losses and we realized that FEMA could help us in our recovery,” Morales explained.
“With the help of BCPeabody, we hope to gain access to these funds and rebuild our structures to be ready for any future emergency,” he said.
The president of BCPeabody is retired Colonel Robert M. Carpenter, former commander of the U.S. Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District, Florida, responsible for the eastern United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
BCPeabody has submitted numerous proposals to the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resilience (COR3), which have been evaluated favorably and are awaiting the approval of FEMA, the representatives said.
BCPeabody participated in the construction of the Portuguese River dam in Ponce, the the U.S. Corps of Engineers’ largest dam project in the last 20 years on the island, and the dredging of the San Juan Bay, among other projects.