MUNSTER | It has a name and it's working on a structure.
Members of a steering committee for a newly formed local faith-based organization designed to assist residents during times of disaster plan to forward bylaws to the group Nov. 17.
The Rev. Steven Conger, senior pastor of Ridge United Methodist Church in Munster, has been working to bring representatives of different faiths together from Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties to develop a long-term strategy to address those residents' needs.
The group has decided to call itself LARRI or Lakeshore Area Regional Recovery of Indiana.
Conger said no one was prepared when the floods hit after steady rain in mid-September, and one of the challenges will be to make sure they are "better prepared" for a disaster.
Thousands of homes in the three-county area suffered flood damage, causing hundreds of people to be evacuated. President Bush declared a disaster in the region, paving the way for federal funds.
There was major damage in many communities including Munster, Gary and Lake Station.
Conger said a report he received last week showed there still are 48 homes in Gary that need to be cleaned.
"I don't know about Porter and LaPorte counties," he said. "Munster is coming along pretty well. A lot of the people in Munster had the resources to take care of their problem. Our objective is to take care of those people who don't have the resources."
He said at the initial meeting two weeks ago, the organization set up several subcommittees working on everything from communication to financial resource development. LARRI already is securing funds through donations and will plan fundraisers as well as search for grants, Conger said, adding he expects recovery to be a two-year process.
"We intend to help people rebuild and get their homes back to a liveable condition," he said.
Munster Town Councilman Mike Mellon said faith-based groups really stepped up and helped people during the floods.
"They did a phenomenal job. Without them, it would have been much worse," he said.