Immediate and long-term disaster response is complicated. We learned this after Hurricane Katrina and we are learning it again after Superstorm Sandy. Episcopal Relief and Development was cited in an article describing where all that money–governmental, insurance and donated–goes, and says ERD and the Dioceses of New Jersey and Newark are doing a good job.
NJSpotlight.com reports in “Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds: Following the Money.”
However, when an organization already serves constituents in an affected area, its help to its own can be invaluable. For example, the international relief and development arm of The Episcopal Church of the United States trained its New Jersey pastors on Monday to help congregants fill out FEMA forms. Its churches are serving as distribution centers for members who need supplies. And in New York, several churches sheltered storm refugees and trained members on how to minister to low-income parishioners who were displaced. Its Hurricane Sandy Mobile Response Fund supports the dioceses involved in this work.
Another religious institution, the Southern Baptist Convention, is integral to the work of the Red Cross and uses a significant portion of the donations it collects. As the entity that cooks all of the meals purchased and distributed by the Red Cross during and after disasters nationwide, its parishioners have prepared 3.8 million meals and snacks in Monmouth County since Hurricane Sandy.
Their service has augmented the food taken from Red Cross pantries in counties that weren’t hard hit — pantries that will need to replenish their own supplies soon with donations designated specifically for those particular chapters. (Red Cross donations are either routed to wherever the need is greatest or when applicable they go to the location or project specified by the donor.) With 91 cents of every dollar donated to the Red Cross directly funding its services and programs, the organization has spent between $40 million and $50 million dollars in ten states providing hot food, water and shelter, and distributing 1.3 million relief items such as rakes, shovels, garden gloves, trash bags, breathing masks, and cleaning supplies in Central and South Jersey.
Experienced national coordinators leading state operations from a command center in Tinton Falls plan for each day by calculating what was used the day before and sending employees and volunteers out to scour the affected communities to talk with victims and agencies close to the ground about their evolving needs. Not only do they operate stationary response centers and distribution and collection points, but they also send out two roving vehicles each day equipped with food, supplies, counselors, doctors, nurses, and any other resources that can help clients move up to the next level of self-sufficiency.