Adventist Community Services hosted a 2-day “Assisting Individuals in Crisis” Workshop on March 15 – 16 (Wednesday & Thursday) at Summit Northwest Ministries in Post Falls, Idaho. It was conducted by Dr. Martin Feldbush. Participants were awarded CEUs by University of Maryland and Certificates of completion by ICISF. This is a new program launched for volunteer training through ACS. The workshop sessions were well received and turned out to be a great success. There were around 75 individuals from various professional backgrounds that deal with people in crisis; healthcare, law enforcement, counseling, mental health, and etc. The participants were extremely impressed with the sessions and are already looking forward to the “Group Crisis Intervention” Workshop.
A Multi-Agency Recovery Center was set up on March 10 and 11 at First Baptist Church in Oak Grove. Several agencies joined together on these two days to be of service to the survivors of the tornado. They offered insurance information, legal services, emergency financial assistance, food stamp replacement services, health and wellness services, and more. In addition to these services, childcare and warm meals were also available. Along with Adventist Community Services, some of the other organizations that participated were the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, United Way 2-1-1, Catholic Charities of Kansas City - St. Joseph, Children's Disaster Services, ICNA Relief USA, and many more.
The State of Louisiana is still in the process of recovering from the devastating floods that swept across the state in August 2016. One of the areas that were severely hit was Baton Rouge, which alone received a tremendous amount of rain in two days that it caused more than ten rivers to overflow. A federal disaster declaration was issued for over 20 parishes. Over 150,000 families have applied for assistance from the government.
ACS has been in regular contact with Louisiana State, the Louisiana Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), and FEMA, identifying the needs of the affected communities and coordinating relief efforts. It was found that the greatest unmet need was for kitchen kits to allow families to prepare, serve, and eat meals in their own homes. The ARK-LA Conference ACS Disaster Response Management Team, led by Lavida Whitson, coordinated the ACS response to this emergency with the support of ACS volunteers from several other conferences.
The needs of each family who applied for FEMA assistance were thoroughly evaluated, and resources were made available to them to assist in their recovery. ADRA provided the funds to purchase 450 kitchen kits; each kit was constituted of 83 pieces. The families who were eligible to receive the kits were scheduled for a distribution event in their corresponding parish. The kits were loaded into a truck and transported to the distribution sites, which had banners of ADRA and ACS hanging at each of the sites. They were then distributed by ACS teams to the designated families in the five most affected parishes. ACS-operated multi-agency warehouses were utilized to store the kitchen kits securely prior to distribution.
Overall, this was a very successful project in assisting families in need following the flooding. Adventist Community Services appreciates the Grant funds provided by ADRA. This project would not have been possible without this assistance. We also would like to acknowledge all of the volunteers, workers, and staff of the Disaster Response Team for their continued dedicated efforts in the Recovery process.
The devastating EF-4 tornado that struck Perryville last week has left dozens of people injured, around 180 homes destroyed, and one dead. Travis Koenig, who was driving along Interstate 55 with his friend, was killed in a fatal crash caused by the tornado. The city of Perryville and the county have an active COAD (Community Organizations Active in Disaster), so the local response has been tremendously strong and organized.
Over the weekend, Montana Conference ACS DR Team assisted with the Relief by providing about 20 Ambassadors to staff the Multi Agency Resource Center (MARC) that was held in Perryville last Sabbath. These volunteers have become well known and respected for their dedicated service of providing greeting and guidance through the process of 'Emotional and Spiritual Care' for the impacted survivors. They worked in conjunction with several local agencies to coordinate water and food distribution, and to donate cleanup items for the Perryville community.
Aaron Atkison was baptized at the Clinton, Arkansas, Seventh-day Adventist Church on Sabbath, February 11, 2017. After church Bev Wynot, an Adventist Community Services volunteer, was preparing to come help in New Orleans following the tornado. Aaron inquired as to where she was going, and upon hearing about her work with disaster response, he wanted to go along. He has been in New Orleans the last two days tirelessly working serving emergency supplies to those affected by the tornado. "It's the right thing to do, and I always want to volunteer when given the opportunity," said Aaron. He is pictured in the Texas Clothing Van (semi truck), filling orders for those who requested prepackaged clothing outfits. He also helped keep the distribution line supplied with other items. Elder Joe Watts, ACS Disaster Response Director for the Southwestern Union commented that "He was baptized one day, and serving others the next day, and that's the way it should be."
New Orleans was hit by a tornado on February 8, 2017. Texas Adventist Community Services was asked to bring the clothing truck to New Orleans to distribute clothing outfits to those affected by the tornado. They served 115 families (342 very appreciative people) on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, February 13 they served clothing packs, personal care kits, blankets, and sheets.They are working in cooperation with Catholic Charities whose church and school are in the actual disaster zone.
The State of Tennessee has been devastated by wildfires that ravaged parts of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge more than a week ago. Our Southern Union Conference has also been affected by these fires. The GA-Cumberland Conference has taken up the main responsibility for this area. ACS DR Coordinator Terry Haight is in search of a building that can be utilized for setting up a Warehouse. In addition, the GA-Cumberland Conference was able to gain access to the town of Pigeon Forge to assess the needs of the community. As they drove through the area the smoke was hanging very low and visibility was down to roughly 10 feet, making it difficult for work to be done in such conditions.
Here is a report from local news coverage:
- Damage assessments continue in Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Sevier County in the wake of wildfires that killed seven people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses.
- Firefighters are striving hard to extinguish as many as 14 remaining blazes as rain brings some relief to the area. The fires covered more than 15,000 acres at its peak.
- As many as 14,000 visitors and residents in Sevier County and Gatlinburg were forced to evacuate ahead of the blaze.
- State law enforcement has set up a hotline for people to report missing family and friends.
Let us remember those who have been affected by this tragedy.
The Distribution Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will be closing operations effective October 31, 2016. On behalf of the Southwest Region Conference President Calvin Watkins, Church Ministries Director Elder Durandel Ford, Sr., ADRA International, as well as the North American Division Adventist Community Services, we want to express our sincere gratitude to all those involved for their dedicated support and assistance in the Recovery efforts of the Louisiana floods.
It has been a pleasure not only to serve, but also collaborate with other individuals and organizations. A huge appreciation goes out to the following: Irene Williams; Lyn Hykeem; Area Seventh-day Adventist Churches; Sung Kwon; Elizabeth Tomenko; Lavida Whitson; W. Derrick Lea; Pr. William Little and the Nashville Area S.D.A. Churches; Nashville, Tenn. YMCA; Royliene Johnson; Pr. Michael Bailey, Sr.; Portia Perkins; Evelyn Edwards; FEMA; Salvation Army; VOAD; State of Louisiana; T. Ron Weegar; Mildred Dunn and her staff; Brenda Clark and staff; Vendetta Smith and staff; Theresa Paris and her staff; Elder Benjamin Francois and staff; Sherlette Burkhalter and staff; Lucinda Keller; Pr. Robert Davis; Pr. Alfred Booker; Westbank United S.D.A. Church Van & Pr. David Hinds and his staff; Pr. Eliot Brooks; Charlene Thompson and her staff; H. and H. Equipment of Baton Rouge; Clio Place Baptist Church & Pastor Sherman L. Hughes, Sr.; ARK- LA- TEX; American Red Cross; Mediannites; The Baptist Associations; Mormons; and many others.
We would also like to thank Mr. Freddy Lawrence for his patience and expertise in the area of record keeping for the Grant that supported the victims, volunteers, and management of services of the "Great Flood of Louisiana 2016". Let us continue to keep all those who are still being affected by this tragedy and also others affected by such weather-related events.
The Southern Union and its Conferences have been actively involved in helping communities post-hurricane. The Florida Conference deployed Disaster Response individuals out to areas within its region. A few roofs needed tarps to cover exposed areas, but for the most part those affected were able to manage with their own resources. The Southeastern Conference ACS DR Team, led by Director Peay, identified various requests on the ground in the Daytona area.
The South Atlantic Conference took care of the states of Georgia and South Carolina. As the hurricane was approaching the coast, the town of Savanah was emptied and evacuated just prior to landfall. The inhabitants traveled to the camp site run by South Atlantic. The Camp managers Fullard and his wife provided shelter, food, and comfort kits (including church literature) for over 250 people on the camp site. Several power companies had responded to help in the Recovery, as many towns were over 90% without power. The South Atlantic also provided lodging to the workers, so they might provide service to those who were without power. Currently, roughly 80 workers continue to be housed in the hotels run by Church personnel. Most of those from Savannah have returned back home.
The NAD ACS Disaster Team was able to provide partners who could provide assistance like food, water and other household items to those affected. We are teaming up with other NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) through daily Conference calls where the effects of the storm are discussed. We will continue working with our local Conference leadership in the affected areas and are grateful for their timely assistance to their community. The Carolina Conference is looking for volunteers to help out in the South Carolina Warehouse in Mullins. If you wish to volunteer or donate please click here.
Hurricane Matthew's impending arrival in the Southeastern states is preparing residents for the worst. The much talked about hurricane has already made a strong impact in and around Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas. It is expected to be a historic catastrophe which currently has sustained winds of 125 miles per hour. This weather event is a Category 3 and residents up and down the east coast have been asked to stay abreast of their local conditions and evacuation routes as appropriate.
The NAD ACS Disaster Response Team held a Gotomeeting of its Union Directors and a few affected Conference Directors that are currently on the ground in the region. An overview of the expected timeline as forecast was provided. They also outlined some of the resources that could be available to them should the need arise from FEMA, VOAD, and local Emergency Management. The Southern Union Conference gave the following report from its local teams in South Carolina and Georgia:
- 11 Warehouses have been identified in South Carolina for use should the state need us to set them up
- South Carolina is in full Activation at their EOC
- South Carolina can deploy as soon as needed
- As of 3 pm today, approximately 1,000,000 has evacuated from the coast area
- I20/26 is one way from the coast to I77/26
- A Reentry program is in place and will determine who gets back into evacuated area
- Coastal Churches that might evacuate have been contacted and inland churches have offered support
- GA team is available for deployment and can respond within 2 hours
Bill Brimner, the lead Disaster person of Florida Conference, is currently working to ensure that Florida is ready for the effects of the Hurricane. Several Unions have expressed their willingness to assist the other conferences that are/will be affected, and we’ll be the liaison to facilitate this in a smooth manner.
Let us remember those who have already been affected by this tragic weather, and those who are on high alert as Hurricane Matthew continues to pose a threat for communities.