EW ORLEANS (RNS) -- Leaders of a consortium of Katrina relief groups say they are approaching a milestone in recovery efforts, having distributed $25 million in money, muscle and construction material to about 1,000 families around New Orleans in the four years since Hurricane Katrina.
Even so, they estimate the region's recovery is only at the halfway point, at best.
And as the big private donations that marked 2006 and 2007 taper off, the consortium of mostly church-related agencies is positioning itself to continue its work with upcoming state and federal grants.
To be sure, $25 million is a small fraction of the total outpouring of private aid that flowed, and still flows, into the region since Katrina roared ashore in August 2005.
An accurate calculation of the total private relief figure is largely unknowable, some relief managers say.
But $25 million is the value of volunteer aid, materials and donations the partnership believes it has supplied to about 1,000 families, said Tom Costanza, its board chairman.
The consortium is called the Greater New Orleans Disaster Recovery Partnership, or GNODRP. In speech, members refer to it by its inelegant acronym: "No-drip." Like much else after Katrina, the agency is unprecedented, Costanza said.
After most natural disasters, private, nonprofit relief organizations create county-based roundtables to coordinate their work and share resources. But the devastation from Katrina was so vast that Catholic, Mennonite, Salvation Army and other faith-based relief groups linked up with big secular partners such as the Red Cross to form a kind of super-roundtable.
Typically, participating disaster agencies such as the United Methodist Committee on Relief or Lutheran Disaster Response helped families from their own resources wherever possible.
But they also brought money and the promise of construction material and volunteers to the roundtable as well, prepared to donate them to other agencies with needy clients, said Costanza, a Catholic relief worker with the Archdiocese of New Orleans' Office of Justice and Peace.
The $25 million in aid the partnership has distributed out of a common coffer does not include tens of millions of dollars worth of aid its 80 or more member agencies have distributed solely out of their own relief operations since 2005.
Even so, on the basis of what it knows about the landscape, the partnership estimates that four years out, Katrina rebuilding is still only barely at the halfway mark -- if that, said Paul Timmons, the partnership's executive director.