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  • Faith-Based Organizations Respond to Tornado Victims

    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano surveyed the damage of the tornado-ravaged South this weekend, promising federal supplies and aid to help victims of one of the deadliest storm systems in U.S. history. But before FEMA or government leaders stood in the wreckage, local community groups and church congregations were on the streets, assessing victims’ needs and providing emergency supplies.

    From organizing donations to setting up makeshift shelters in church basements, faith-based organizations, churches, and community leaders became unofficial first responders in the days after the tornadoes wiped out houses, municipal services, and whole towns.

    The response of local churches to the recent natural disaster is just a larger extension of the support many of these places of worship continually provide to their communities. For many small, Southern towns, churches are in a week-long business of serving their neighbors by hosting sports games, bake sales, prayer services, and community group meetings. As Heritage’s Jennifer Marshall and James Carafano have illustrated, it is that intimate knowledge of the lives and needs of the community that makes churches and local faith-based organizations invaluable to disaster relief efforts. The situational awareness and physical proximity to ground zero during disasters allows local community organizations to swiftly begin meeting their neighbors’ needs.

    Many congregations and local chapters of faith-based organizations also have a national network of readily available supplies and volunteers to help in disaster relief efforts. The Salvation Army, partnering with local units in states hit hardest by last week’s tornados, has already served tens of thousands of meals and helped funnel monetary donations to the disaster response effort. The Southern Baptist Disaster Relief organization was immediately on the ground after the worst tornadoes hit, helping in search and rescue efforts and praying with people—regardless of faith background—for comfort and strength. On Sunday alone, over 1,000 volunteers were working through Samaritan’s Purse in Alabama to deliver food, water, and spiritual hope to thousands of displaced individuals.

    On Sunday, volunteers put down their shovels and slipped off worked gloves for a few hours to gather in makeshift sanctuaries to thank God for saving their lives and ask for the strength and perseverance to continue rebuilding their communities. Faith-based organizations are well-positioned not only to provide physical aid to disaster victims but address the emotional, spiritual, and mental anguish that often follows a tragedy.

    In addition to local religious leaders offering solace and encouragement to devastated neighbors, national faith-based organizations sent crisis-trained chaplains to the disaster areas to help victims emotionally process their loss. Local churches and ministries also have staying power, allowing congregations and volunteers to continue meeting the long-term needs of the community long after federal and state help has receded.

    With unique awareness of immediate community needs, local and national infrastructures for providing material aid, and the ability to address the emotional and spiritual needs of victims, faith-based community organizations should be an integral disaster relief ally. As Marshall and Carafano point out, government agencies should acknowledge the essential relief capacities that local churches and community groups possess by partnering with faith-based institutions to more effectively plan for and respond to victims’ immediate needs in an emergency situation.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    2 Responses to Faith-Based Organizations Respond to Tornado Victims

    1. Bobbie says:

      Another example of lagging government (stop the funding!) and a natural and wonderful sight to see faith based organizations helping their fellow mankind without even a thought of depending on FEMA (government!) God Bless those who help each other and those who reach out to help!

      God Bless those effected, to resume their lives in faith and regain their loss in the love of God! Our thoughts, prayers and condolences are with the injured and the families of the victims.

    2. George Colgrove VA says:

      A federal agency cannot respond efficiently to any crisis. For the most part there are not enough crisis's out there to justify tens of thousands of overpaid federal workers. They just end up setting idle. When a disaster comes about, they need to mobilize which they do at the speed of pouring molasses on a cold day.

      They need to do instant training of the local area and they need to introduce themselves to the local emergency workers. A lot of their work is trying to see where they fit in the network and usualy end up being redundant staff.

      FEMA is the quintessential example of redundancy and waste. The only purpose of a federal agency like FEMA is to provide redistributed funding in the case of a disaster. This does not require one person to go to the disaster area. With all the secrecy in the federal government to cover up corruption, you cannot even count on something like FEMA to ensure transparency!

      More than local religious groups, there are local fire and police departments, local emergency management organizations, both community volunteer based and state based, and of course the state controlled National Guard. Heading it all is the governor of the state. The infrastructure is already in place with people already in the trenches long before the white shirts from DC show up on the scene. Prior to FEMA, the first responders lack one thing that makes the response efficient, they lack a bureaucracy. Responding to a disaster is a domestic issue that is left to the states.

      More importantly, after the disaster is cleaned up, the people go back to the regularly scheduled lives at no cost to the taxpayers. The FEMA folks go back to DC or whatever district office they are stored in – still collecting huge paychecks while setting idle for the next disaster.

      We need to take advantage of what local groups offer from the goodness of their hearts and pocketbooks. Where we need the federal government to do is stay out of the way while at the same time provide gap funding where donation are not enough. Let the local people take that funding with a required high level of transparency provide relief to people in need.

      With the federal government working on 44% capital, for every 10,000 federal workers, this nation goes into debt by $700 million – think about it.

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