Q&A: Giving to hurricanes Harvey and Irma relief

Victoria Goff, American Baptist Home Mission Societies (ABHMS) national coordinator, Disaster-response Ministries, answers questions about giving to hurricanes Harvey and Irma relief efforts through One Great Hour of Sharing. She can be reached at [email protected].

Q: People want desperately to help those affected by Harvey’s and Irma’s devastation. What can we do today?

A: At this time, you can help in four primary ways:

  1. PRAY for those in hurricane Harvey’s and Irma’s paths.
  2. GIVE to One Great Hour of Sharing. One hundred percent of gifts designated “Hurricane Harvey Relief” and “Hurricane Irma Relief” go to the relief and rehabilitation of those affected. Give through your local church or online at abhms.org > Give Now.
  3. DONATE hygiene kits and emergency cleanup buckets, which are distributed by Church World Service. Find details about these kits and how to contribute them at http://cwskits.org.
  4. PLAN TO GO to affected areas in future weeks or months. The present need is for first responders and people with specialized training—doctors, nurses and search-and-rescue professionals. Teams that assist with rebuilding must wait until the rains cease and systems are in place. This time will come, but it’s not in the first weeks after disasters of this magnitude. Contact Victoria Goff at [email protected] for information about volunteering for future mission trips to affected regions.

Q: How will money donated to One Great Hour of Sharing “Hurricane Harvey Relief” and “Hurricane Irma Relief” be spent?

A: Disaster response is a long process, depending on the disaster, and often spans many years. ABHMS continues to lead volunteer mission trips to New Orleans’ Lower 9th Ward—12 years after hurricanes Katrina and Rita destroyed the area. With that in mind, thought must be given to the long-term needs of the affected areas and how those needs will be addressed. The initial release of funds will go to our national and local partners who are providing immediate assistance in the affected areas. Once the rebuilding phase begins, funds will be used to help rebuild, restore and renew homes, churches, communities and lives. ABHMS will collaborate in efforts with local partners on the ground.

Q: How much will be needed?

A: It’s impossible to know right now how much is needed, but I can say that the scope of these disasters can be compared to that of Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Katrina. American Baptists gave nearly $4 million to those two relief efforts. That’s incredible! It’s my prayer that, even in these economically difficult times for us here in the United States and Puerto Rico, the response will be as generous.

Q: How do you get a handle on the needs when they are this great?

A: Once the rain stops, the situation will become more manageable with each passing day. Again, once the rains cease, we will work with our national and local partners on the ground to gather assessments and identify where we, as American Baptists, can and will assist. We will also send ABHMS representatives into affected areas in the coming weeks to assist partners in completing both mid- and long-term assessments so that we can channel funds toward meeting the greatest needs.

Q: ABHMS has released $10,000 to Hurricane Harvey relief so far. How quickly will donations flow to Houston and the affected areas?

A: We released the initial $10,000 in response to requests from our partners. Gifts already received will enable us to respond to requests as they are received during the coming weeks. As churches receive offerings and send their funds, we will continue to provide both short- and long-term assistance.

Q: What is the unique role of the church in crises such as these?

A: In the aftermath of any natural disaster, the church—including American Baptist Churches USA—plays a unique role. And that’s to look at immediate needs, with an eye to the future as well. The church walks with those affected over the long term. ABHMS gives testimony to that every year when we lead mission trips to New Orleans. We are still there—12 years after Katrina—walking side by side with those affected, and we will be there until the work is done. That’s how we bring God’s healing presence to those whose lives are torn apart by disasters’ devastation. And we will be there for the people affected by hurricanes Harvey and Irma, until that work is done.

Q: How do I ensure that my church receives credit for my donation?

A: When donating by personal check, in addition to writing “OGHS-Hurricane Harvey” or “OGHS-Hurricane Irma” on the memo line, include your church’s name. When donating online, type the church name in the “comments” box.