Last year presented incredible challenges for families all over the world. In the midst of the tragedies and economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many communities also had to contend with devastating hurricanes. In fact, 2020 had a record-breaking hurricane season with the most named storms, as well as the most storms to hit the U.S. coastline. Ten storms formed in September alone, the most ever recorded in a single month.
Because of these extreme and repeated natural disasters, the support of our donors became more important than ever. Their compassionate generosity empowered Cross Catholic Outreach to move quickly, shipping much-needed disaster relief and providing cash grants to our ministry partners in the affected regions.
With the 2021 storm season quickly approaching, we reflect on the events of last year, the devoted efforts of our ministry partners and the compassionate response of our donors. Across the southeastern U.S. and much of Central America, their assistance delivered comfort and hope to families impacted by some of 2020’s most devastating hurricanes.
On Aug. 27, Hurricane Laura arrived in Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane. With maximum sustained winds of 150 mph, it was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in that state since 1856. Residential homes suffered severe damage, various parishes were completely flooded and 33 people in Louisiana alone were killed.
Our compassionate donors wasted no time coming to the aid of those affected, and by Sept. 2 we had secured a 53-foot shipping container filled with 43 pallets of personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, baby diapers, baby wipes and other necessities.
By Sept. 4, that shipment reached New Orleans and was received by our distribution partner, Catholic Charities of New Orleans. Their division director, Tom Costanza, told us, “These items are exactly what the evacuees need. Thank you so much Cross Catholic Outreach!”
Hurricane Sally made landfall as a Category 2 hurricane on Sept. 16 near Gulf Shores, Ala. The region between Mobile, Ala., and Pensacola, Fla., took the brunt of the storm with widespread wind damage, flash flooding and a few resulting tornadoes. The storm claimed eight lives.
In collaboration with Catholic Social Services and Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida, Cross Catholic Outreach was able to secure two 53-foot containers (75 pallets total) of toilet paper, paper towels, hygiene items, cleaning supplies and other essentials. One shipment went to the Archdiocese of Mobile. The other went to the Diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee to provide survivors with immediate relief.
Hurricanes Delta and Zeta — both Category 2 hurricanes — were the last of five named storms to strike Louisiana in 2020, breaking the state record for most named storms in a single season. Delta made landfall in the southwestern part of the state on Oct. 9, and Zeta arrived near New Orleans less than three weeks later on Oct. 28. Each storm inflicted property damage and downed power lines, and they caused two fatalities apiece in Louisiana.
This additional damage caused great hardship for many families that were still reeling from the effects of previous storms, particularly in the southwest near Lake Charles. Support from our donors again helped provide Catholic Charities of New Orleans with 39 pallets of relief supplies to aid those affected by Hurricane Delta, and 37 pallets of relief supplies for those affected by Hurricane Zeta. These emergency shipments included items such as blankets, paper products, diapers, batteries, candles, hygiene items and cleaning products.
In a letter of appreciation, the Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans, wrote, “Your organization continues to answer the call of the gospel to show God’s love and compassion. … You have helped us become a ‘field hospital,’ as Pope Francis wants our Church to continue to embody.”
On Nov. 3, Hurricane Eta impacted the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua as a devastating Category 4 storm. Catastrophic winds of more than 140 mph tore roofs from buildings and downed power lines and trees, while life-threatening storm surges and destructive waves battered the country’s coastline. Though Eta was later downgraded to a tropical storm, it still managed to wreak havoc in Honduras, Guatemala and, to some extent, El Salvador. An estimated 3 million people were affected across the region.
Tragically, the hardships for these families were far from over. Late on Nov. 16, Hurricane Iota struck Nicaragua’s Atlantic coast as a Category 4 hurricane, making landfall only 15 miles south of the place where Hurricane Eta had come ashore less than two weeks prior. The storm gradually downgraded in intensity as it interacted with land — but not before inflicting catastrophic damage. It ripped the roof off the main hospital in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, forcing the evacuation of all patients. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala also felt the effects of the storm, with deadly storm surges, flash flooding and landslides.
Thanks to the generous donations we received, Cross Catholic Outreach was able to work quickly, sending grants and shipping 262 pallets of relief materials to our ministry partners in each of the primarily affected countries.
In the aftermath of hurricanes Eta and Iota, the European Commission reported 23 deaths and 10 missing in Nicaragua. About 120,651 people were forced to relocate to temporary shelters, and an estimated 655,000 Nicaraguans were affected in total.
To address the needs in Nicaragua, we sent two shipments of disaster relief supplies including soap, shampoo, candles, detergent and blankets to our partner Amigos for Christ. They have been working with the Red Cross to safely distribute these supplies to families in need. A previous shipment of Vitafood — fortified meal packs designed to meet the needs of the malnourished — was also repurposed to feed families affected by the disaster. We have since sent another shipment of Vitafood to continue helping hungry families battling food insecurity.
It is estimated that about 9.1 million Hondurans were affected by the storms in some way. The United Nations (UN) reported 98 deaths, 494,000 people displaced and 95,000 people crowded into 1,000 shelters.
In response to this great need, we provided our partner The Pearl Association with shipments of medicines, medical supplies, child hygiene kits and disaster relief supplies. We also gave them a grant of $8,000 to secure food for the hungry. These necessities were used to help meet the needs of survivors in and around El Progresso, where 70,000 people were living in 69 shelters.
The outer bands of Eta and Iota caused flash flooding, landslides and deadly storm surges in Guatemala. The UN reported 60 dead, 99 missing and 249,000 displaced. We provided our partner Friends for Health and Life with food, medicines, medical supplies, dietary supplement packets, vitamins, hygiene products, assorted emergency items and a grant of $8,000 to meet the most urgent needs of those affected.
One of the shipments included an antibiotic called cephalexin, which can be used to treat respiratory and fungal infections — both of which are common after periods of heavy rain.
Jorge Gramajo, founder of Friends for Health and Life, was particularly blessed by this miraculous provision. He said, “God is exact in the things that he does. He knew the people affected by this tragedy would desperately need this medicine. God loves us.”
El Salvador fared slightly better than its neighbors, but a large section of the country still experienced significant damage due to torrential rains, flash flooding and landslides. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported one death and 307 displaced people living in 16 temporary shelters. To meet the needs of displaced families, we gave a grant of $8,000 to the Friendly Hand Foundation. This sum was used to provide immediate food relief for sheltered families.
Over the course 2020’s brutal storm season, the generosity of our donors provided survivors with a total of:
Altogether, these shipments valued $16.8 million, and an additional $24,000 was given in the form of cash grants to provide immediate hunger relief.
The generosity of Cross Catholic Outreach’s donors has truly been a godsend for discouraged families in the initial stages of recovery. With their immediate needs taken care of, survivors are now in a better position to work toward long-term recovery. God was glorified through the compassionate action of donors as well. Through the mercy shown by Catholics around the world, struggling families saw the Lord’s hand at work, bringing relief and hope into their difficult circumstances.
In 2020, the total impact of our disaster relief efforts stands out as significantly as the unprecedented storm season itself, and we are deeply grateful to our donors for making our relief efforts successful. Those who contributed answered the prayers of suffering communities all around the world. The successes we celebrate are a result of their passion for sharing Christ’s love with those in deepest need.
Please continue to pray that God will strengthen disaster-impacted families as they work to rebuild their lives. As the 2021 season approaches, let’s keep working together to bless and fortify families in vulnerable regions.
Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2021, the close of our ministry’s new fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.