Faith-based groups from North Carolina are at work helping victims of Hurricane Harvey and more are ready to go as soon as they’re called.
Samaritan’s Purse, based in North Wilkesboro, has two tractor-trailers full of chainsaws and other tools, cleaning supplies and tarps in Texas now, with two more on the way, said Tim Haas, manager of U.S. disaster relief for the organization. The teams are working with churches in Victoria, Texas, and have about 60 local volunteers out assessing damage. The groups may be able to start cutting fallen trees, covering damaged roofs and cleaning out some homes as early as Tuesday afternoon, Haas said.
Victoria, Rockport and Houston all are seeing historic flooding from record rainfall as a result of Harvey.
The storm hit Texas on Friday as a Category 4 hurricane, then parked in the Gulf of Mexico and continues to dump rain on the state. More than 30 inches of rain has fallen so far, with another two feet expected in some areas. By Tuesday morning, more than 30,000 people had been forced to seek refuge in temporary shelters. At least 14 people are believed to have died as a result of the storm.
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Samaritan’s Purse, the United Methodist Committee on Relief and the N.C. Baptists on Mission all are collecting donations for storm recovery work and signing up volunteers who can go into flooded areas if needed.
“We don’t go until we are invited. That’s the protocol,” said Ann Huffman, volunteer coordinator for the N.C. Conference of the United Methodist Church. Sending volunteers too early can add to the problems that come with a natural disaster, Huffman said, so UMCOR coordinates with local conferences to send what they need, when they need it.
One of the suggestions on UMCOR’s website is to make relief kits that include cleaning supplies such as scouring pads, dust masks and work gloves.
In North Carolina, thousands of volunteers are trained as disaster responders through their churches and can travel on short notice – many on the day they’re called – to anywhere in the country. In the immediate aftermath of a disaster, they can work in shelters, staff feeding stations and operate showering facilities.
Other teams go in and quickly begin helping homeowners clean out their houses, salvaging what hasn’t been destroyed and removing everything else to allow the home to dry.
But that’s only the beginning, and Huffman reminds those who want to help that recovery from such a widespread disaster is a long process and help will be needed for months – and years – to come. In North Carolina, volunteers still are working to help residents rebuild from Hurricane Matthew, which caused catastrophic flooding in the state in October 2016.
“We’re still mucking out houses from that storm,” Huffman said.
The N.C. Conference maintains a small warehouse where it keeps emergency supplies to help after disasters. Those include flood buckets, which contain cleaning supplies; health kits, stuffed with toiletries; and school kits, with basic school supplies. The conference has about 1,000 flood buckets stored and ready to send to the Gulf area if requested, Huffman said.