Disaster Response

A Time for Recovery and a Time to Give

By Rick Burnette

Most of us are aware that the 2020 hurricane season was unrivaled.

By the end of November there had been a record breaking 31 tropical systems, 30 named storms and 13 hurricanes, six of which were major. This includes the 12 storms that made landfall in the U.S.; also a record.

Keeping the trend going, 2020 was the fifth consecutive above-average hurricane season.

These stats represent widespread tragedy and hardship which Lake Charles, Louisiana knows all too well. Hit first by Hurricane Laura and then Hurricane Delta, there were at least 28 storm-related deaths in the region with thousands of households left in distress.

Five consecutive above-average hurricane seasons have also stretched CBF.

Since 2017, CBF Disaster Response – at the invitation of CBF state and regional organizations – has responded to 10 hurricanes with varying levels of assistance provided in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas.

These four consecutive years of engagement have involved hundreds of volunteers as well as several unpaid CBF State/Regional Disaster Response Coordinators. We are grateful for the sacrifices of each one.

Mobilizing volunteers and resources for response requires considerable collaboration between CBF global and CBF state/regional organizations, each of which operate under budget constraints. And wherever additional community-based facilitation has been required, since 2017, seven paid Local Response Coordinators have been contracted to handle the logistics.   

Since 2017, CBF Disaster response has deployed equipment and shower trailers to Florida, North Carolina, and Louisiana in addition to providing financial assistance for the purchase of a passenger van for the Hurricane Maria effort in Puerto Rico. With an aging fleet of response trailers, each year funds are allocated for maintenance as well as to replace tools and equipment. A new shower trailer was purchased in 2019.

Since 2017, disaster response has required hundreds of thousands of CBF dollars, with over $175,000 having gone to the Bahamas in support of contractors as well as to purchase and ship much needed construction materials.

Unfortunately, since 2017, the level of donations for hurricane response has been in decline, with little income in 2020.

Not that we’re surprised.

Five consecutive years of above average hurricane activity has taken its toll on our collective energy, resulting in compassion fatigue. Throw in a global pandemic, associated economic hardship, and political uncertainty.

Although we’re scraping the bottom of the hurricane budget barrel, it’s not all bad news.

Consider our partnership with the National Baptist Convention of America in the Lake Charles recovery effort. Once the COVID-19 threat begins to ease, we expect waves of CBF volunteers to begin engaging in southwest Louisiana.

There is also the recent launch of a pilot project to evaluate the potential of post-flood Cleanup Bucket Kits. In response, several CBF congregations and state organizations have participated, each donating funds, materials, and/or time to purchase, assemble and deliver scores of bucket kits to where most needed in Florida and Louisiana.

There is also expressed interest in CBF’s emerging post-disaster spiritual care initiative with planned opportunities to certify and deploy care providers.   

These indicators affirm the enduring concern of CBF congregations related to disaster response as well as their willingness to engage. We also expect that many will provide much needed financial support during this Advent season.

Some may want to contribute towards disaster response items listed in the new CBF Gift Catalog https://cbf.net/giftcatalog that accommodate every budget.

Whereas a gift of $100 matches the expense of a Disaster Cleanup Bucket, $3,500 would cover the cost of a new disaster response trailer. And a $10,000 gift will equip a response trailer with essential tools and supplies.

Alternatively, general donations to CBF Disaster Response can be made here or by mailing a check payable to “CBF” (please write Hurricane Response in the memo line) to:

Cooperative Baptist Fellowship
P.O. Box 102972
Atlanta, GA 30368-2972

By whatever means of support for CBF Disaster Response during this critical time of need – whether through giving, praying, or volunteering – we are extremely grateful.

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