Dear Partners in Ministry,
Hurricanes make my stomach hurt…and my heart ache…. and my head explode! Harvey, Irma and now Maria! As I sit down to write this article, a category 5 hurricane is battering the U.S. Virgin Islands and is bearing down on Puerto Rico. Those poor people in the Caribbean, in Texas and Louisiana, in Florida! As the pictures of the destruction roll across my T.V. screen, I can actually smell the horrible stench of the muck that is left behind when flood waters recede.
For those of you who don’t know, I was involved in two year’s worth of clean-up and recovery, after Hurricane Ivan brought terrible flooding to the Chartiers Valley area, including Carnegie. That flooding occurred after 6 inches of rain fell. I can’t even begin to imagine what 40+ inches of rain would be like or 160 mile per hour winds and 10 feet of storm surge! It will take years for these communities to recover. Do you realize that communities in Louisiana and Mississippi are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina - and that was 12 years ago?
So what can we do? Well, I can pass on what I learned first hand after Ivan.
If you want to get aid to these communities, the best thing to do it is to send money. Anything else takes time to organize, transport and store. Cash provides flexibility. What is needed most can be purchased and provided quickly. The very last thing that is helpful is the collection of clothing and furniture. These items take way to many volunteer hours to sort, transport and store. Send cash!
Also, if you want the most bang for your buck, send your money to church relief efforts. I say this for two reasons. First, the churches already have the administrative structures in place, paid for and operational - so your donation goes directly to aiding the victims of the disaster and not to administrative costs. Second, all of the various relief organizations have their roles and they perform them well. The Red Cross provides immediate relief, water, emergency shelter, cleaning supplies. But they leave town in two weeks. FEMA arrives to provide some financial assistance, but is gone within a month or two. The organizations that are there for the long haul, that stick by the people whose lives have been devastated and left to pick up the pieces, are the churches! Not only do the churches stay behind to assist with the clean-up and recovery, but their efforts are coordinated, so that they work together to meet all areas of need.
So, if you are looking for a way to help, and you’re willing to take the advice of someone who has stood in the muck with flood victims, has seen the heart-wrenching devastation and experienced first-hand how relief and recovery work gets carried out, give your dollars to the church. For us Lutherans, it’s the ELCA’s Disaster Response. You can put your donation in an envelope, mark it Hurricane Disaster Response and put it in the offering plate on Sunday. We’ll see it gets delivered. Or, you can mail it in yourself. You can even pick which hurricane relief work you want it to go to: Harvey, Irma, or Maria! The address is included here. Just remember, when the excitement is over, the media leaves town and the big relief organizations have moved on to the next disaster, it’s the churches that remain until the recovery is complete.
Make checks payable to “Lutheran Disaster Response”
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
ELCA Gift Processing Center P.O. Box 1809
Merrifield, VA 22116-8009
Write “Hurricane Response, United States (or Harvey, or Irma or Maria)” or
“Lutheran Disaster Response where needed"
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773