Places of Worship: Community Ambassadors During Emergencies
Last month severe flooding struck the south eastern states, with South Carolina taking the brunt of the destruction. Nineteen people lost their lives in the historic flooding, families lost their belongings and valuables, many evacuated by boat leaving everything behind, and roads were completely washed away, including sections of Interstate 95. During the flooding in South Carolina and other times of crisis around the world, people sought help at a common area, places of worship. In most every emergency, places of worship step up and act as ambassadors for their communities.
Places of worship are in a unique position to be helpers in their community, whether it be during times of emergency or everyday life; during times of crisis though, they are in a critical position to be of assistance. Many churches open their doors as a refuge while others collect items that are needed and pass them out to those who are without. FEMA and state emergency management is great, but with an increase in natural disasters, the funding may not be there for every emergency situation. During community emergencies, places of worship have many options if they wish to contribute. Here are some ways that places of worship can step up and provide assistance to their communities:
- Act as a tentative shelter
- Offer meals
- Assemble a clean-up crew for after crisis
- Become a donation/distribution center
With the short notice of most natural disasters and fires, community members may not have the funds to stay in a hotel, but need a safe place for their families to stay. Many churches are in the position to open their doors for the community during and after a crisis as a shelter until residents are able to return back to their homes. With some planning, and communication with local emergency responders, opening your church doors as a shelter is a great way to assist your community during emergencies.
With one emergency, typically comes another emergency. For instance, during the flooding in South Carolina, the capitol city was under a boil water advisory for more than a week because of contaminates. Most homes also had standing water, making it impossible for families to cook meals. Places of worship can lend a helping hand by opening their kitchens and feeding families that are struggling during an emergency.
Assemble a Clean-Up Crew for After Crisis
In the immediate hours after a crisis, both national and state crews begin the process of cleaning up debris and rebuilding the community. To aid in the efforts, your place of worship can assemble a team of able-bodied individuals who are willing to join others in cleaning up your town or city. Not only does it help the clean-up go more quickly, but it also allows your place of worship to be a community partner.
Become a Donation/Distribution Center
Perhaps the most cost effective way to help your community during and after an emergency, is to receive donations and then distribute them to those who are in need. Allow people to bring donations to your place of worship during a set time frame, and open your doors for volunteers to distribute those donations during a set time frame. Recruit church members to volunteer a few hours to help sort donations and to distribute them to families and community members.
Emergencies are going to happen in every community, but places of worship can use their resources to assist others. They can open their doors as a shelter, cook meals for those who are hungry, help with the community clean-up or take donations and distribute them to those in need. Places of worship are in a unique position to help their community after national and state assistance have packed up. How does your place of worship aid its community during or after a crisis?