The Spring Creek wildfire that started on June 27 in Southern Colorado because of human error has caused massive destruction, burning over 175,000 acres of land. Several homes and property were also damaged. Some of the most severely-hit counties include Huerfano County where 35 homes were affected, and the Costilla County impacting 100 homes. The Rocky Mountain ACS Disaster Response Team, led by Cathy Kissner, was on the scene assisting with the Recovery Efforts. On Sunday, July 8, they were able to secure a location for the Collection/Distribution Center in Huerfano County; whereas In Costilla County, they are still in search of one in the Ft. Garland area. Please keep the affected families and communities in your prayer as they go through this trying time.
The North American Division ACS DR Team has been partnering with the Southern Union and Southwestern Union to assist with Recovery Efforts in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria that has left many communities in devastation. We are also collaborating with the Columbia Union as they begin Relief work in response to the recent Ellicott City flooding. Each of these entities have received financial support from the Division for the purchase of equipment and other needed supplies for the long-term Rebuild program.
The Florida Conference retained many of its new purchases to be used for Disaster Response. Trailers that will be used for future DR activities when the need arises, have been retrofitted to house medical equipment that can be utilized to provide health services throughout the year. A 25,000 sq. ft. tent was also purchased that will be used as shelter, office space, and other needs that arise over the course of the year. "Making better use of our resources is laying the foundation for us to be a real benefit to the community we serve," stated W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS DR Director.
In addition to the Rebuild program set in place for Irma-affected communities, our first ACS DR Union Instructor Course 'Powerful, Purposeful Presentations' was offered at the Southern Union this month from July 6-8. Approximately 50 individuals attended a full weekend of Instruction from our new Collections Center course to Sheltering Fundamentals. This ended with around 20 selected individuals beginning the certification process to become a DR Instructor by taking the foundational course that will be given in each Union over the next ten months.
The Greater New York Conference ACS has recently received and placed in operation a shower van that will be available for use during Disaster Recovery efforts and other needed times. This will expand the number of such units we have around the Division and lead to more efficient use of our resources.
The Hawaii Conference hosted a ACS Emotional and Spiritual Care session this week in the aftermath of the volcanic eruption that has devastated hundreds of homes and property. Thirty-five pastors and lay members took advantage of the classes that were taught in Oahu by W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS DR Director. The Hawaii ACS DR Director, William Payne, is also hosting a wonderful series of Disaster Response training that started with Derrick and will continue until the weekend by the Pacific Union ACS Director, Charlene Sargent.
After the sessions, Derrick headed to the Big Island of Hawaii to support Pastor Lopez, our lead on the ground. His Team has been feeding the community at least two days a week and working at two shelters that are housing those whose homes have been overtaken by the lava flow. Currently, Camp Waianae in Oahu has opened its doors to over 30 children who live on the Big Island. This has provided respite and rejuvenation for a group that will be confronting challenges in the long run.
Derrick had an opportunity to speak with some of the children that were flown to Oahu from the Big Island. Each of them was so excited to express how much fun they were having learning new things and taking part in the nightly vespers. "It was thrilling to hear the excitement of the youth and just as encouraging to see the work our young adult Counselors put into making this such a wonderful experience," said Lea. He added, "While the Camp does provide a respite to the children, as I walked around two of the shelters on the Big Island, I was struck by the reality the children will return to." Due to limited space, both shelters provide beds closely positioned next to the other. Tents were set up around the parking lot and in the lawn area. This seems to provide some level of privacy, but the daily rain makes this an uncomfortable circumstance.
In addition, there were other challenges that the residents were facing. Breathing in this environment is extremely difficult, even for those without asthma. Many of the occupants and workers talked about having a constant headache for days. Though the Governing authorities suggest the air quality is acceptable, those on site have a differing opinion. The ACS DR Teams continue to work with the local community to ensure a long-term Recovery Plan is being worked on that will meet the needs of the community.
Click here to get a glimpse of the work that ACS was involved in this week.
The recent humanitarian crisis has left many organizations looking for resolutions to the separation of immigrant children and parents taking place at the Texas-Mexico border. While those in our political leadership discuss what is proper or fair, we have a responsibility to live up to our stated mission within ACS DR “serving communities in Christ name.” The North American Division has called together a number of Ministries who are interested in determining how to best respond as a body in a coordinated way. The ACS DR Team has reached out to some of our local and national partners who work in the Refugee community. Marshall Gonzales, Texas ACS/ACSDR Director, is in communication with some of the local partners such as the Texas VOAD, Emergency Management, and others. We are also in communication with our National partners to find ways on how we can be of service.
There are some activities currently going on at the Border to help those who have been impacted by this crisis. Here is a link that educates us on some of the things taking place. Catholic Charities is the lead organization of the activities on the scene, having worked in this area for the past 15 years. W. Derrick Lea, NAD ACS DR Director, has reached out to them to discuss a possible collaboration. They discussed the Respite Center and Day Care where children and families were being held and all the things associated with keeping them housed, clean, and fed.
Please, let us keep the affected families in our thoughts and prayers as they survive these trying times.
On May 18-20, the Upper Columbia Conference conducted a large Pathfinder Camporee which involved around 750 kids. The UCC Associate Director of the Pathfinder Club, Richie Brower, who is passionate about community services, planned an outreach project for the Pathfinders attending the camporee. His goal was to have the attendees fill ACS DR flood buckets with $16,000 worth of products and store them for future disasters. We partnered with them in this endeavor by providing 480 buckets. The UCC ACS funded 225 more white buckets which had large ACS/Pathfinder labels stuck on them. The money for the supplies to go inside the buckets were given by donors.
The flood buckets prepared by the Pathfinders will be utilized in response to the recent flooding that took place in Northern Washington this week. Ferry County will take 100 buckets at the Sheriff's office. Fifteen buckets will go to the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation at Tribal Headquarters in Nespelem. Pend Oreille County will pick up ten buckets here at the office. UCC ACS will also be sharing fifty buckets with Montana Conference, and the remainder with Texas Conference.