Hurricane Florence may be a distant memory for those who don’t live in the Carolinas, but the remnants of its impact still exist. Heaps of debris litter yards, including old carpets, ruined furniture and downed trees. According to Pastor Jim Daub, from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Havelock, North Carolina, “The trees are a big mess right now.”
In response to this need, the Indiana District Board of Directors is giving a matching grant to the Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF) for hurricane relief efforts. In addition, the Lutheran Early Response Teams (LERT) are assessing what is needed so they can start collecting essential items and assembling volunteers.
Pastor Daub, who has seen the devastation firsthand, notes that gift cards are a practical way to help residents impacted by Hurricane Florence. “Canned goods are fine, but the best thing to send right now are Walmart gift cards.”
LERT’s mission is to provide teams of trained volunteers who serve our churches and communities as part of a disaster outreach ministry. Teams are assembled for emergencies such as hurricane relief, fires, flood damage and natural disasters.
Reverend Alan Scott, from St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Indianapolis, has seen the difference LERT teams make in flood-stricken areas. “LERT volunteers make a real difference in the lives of those affected by disasters, large or small,” Rev. Scott says. “Last summer, the town of Franklin, Indiana had some flooding. One house sustained significant flood damage. Volunteers helped clean out all the water and mud from the basement, salvage personal belongings that could be cleaned up, and hauled a lot of unsalvageable items away. They also received an LCMS grant to replace a widow’s water heater, furnace, and have all the mold removed from the basement. It made a profound difference in her life. I expect there will be thousands of stories like that coming out of the Carolinas now, thanks to LERT volunteers.”
LERT teams have certifications to go into disaster areas and provide not only short-term relief, but long-term as well. But at this point, LERT teams can’t enter hurricane-devastated areas until insurance claims have been completed. Once insurance companies have finished assessing the damage, LERT teams can assemble volunteers for hurricane relief efforts.
Reverend Geoffrey Robinson noted that one of the differences between LERT and other disaster response groups is the commitment to long-term recovery as people rebuild their communities. “These kinds of disasters are long-term recovery efforts,” he adds. “We stay in for the long haul.”
Reverend James Rodriguez, from Immanuel Lutheran Church in Seymour, is assembling a LERT work team to travel to North Carolina and deliver buckets and supplies. Details are still pending, but those who are interested should contact Reverend Rodriguez at 812-522-3118.