One of the great things about being Presbyterian is Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA), our denomination's emergency-relief agency. Many of us are familiar with what PDA does overseas, but the agency responds here in the USA as well, to all manner of natural disasters. Whether at home or abroad, PDA's policy is to work closely with local presbyteries (or comparable councils overseas), to insure that assistance is delivered in the most efficient and faithful way possible.
PDA is one of the three major recipients of the One Great Hour of Sharing Offering, and often it is OGHS funds that are dispersed at the first news of a natural disaster.
I've recently been in touch with Bruce McGraw of Lawrenceville and Dick McClain of Allentown, Pennsylvania, volunteers who are part of a 3-person Hurricane Irene response team PDA has put together. Their team is ready to leap into action and work with New Jersey presbyteries as soon as Irene has passed us by. We'll all be hoping the need will be minimal, but it's good to know PDA is there in any event.
In recent years, the Rev. Bill Walker has been designated as Monmouth Presbytery's "Disaster Pastor," a volunteer role. Because Bill has been ill recently and isn't up to doing this sort of thing at the moment, I've asked his predecessor in the role, the Rev. Suzanne Schafer-Coates, to step in and be ready to assist. Suzanne will fill a support and liaison role to pastors of local churches. Once the storm is past, she and I intend to reach out and contact the pastors of the Presbytery, to make sure everything is OK with their congregations, and to see if there are ways Monmouth Presbytery and PDA may help.
We don't know what sort of electricity or phone service may be available immediately after the hurricane, of course - both for us and for people we may be calling - so we'll do the best we can with that.
One immediate request we have from our PDA team comes through one of the relief-agency networks they're part of. There's an immediate need for experienced volunteers to work in the various shelters that have been set up in Monmouth and Atlantic Counties. The following is from Bruce McGraw:
"I thought you might want to know that I received overnight an email from New Jersey VOAD (Volunteers Organized to Assist in Disasters) that the Office of Emergency Management in Monmouth and Atlantic Counties are looking for volunteers who have experience in shelters. The contact for both counties is President of NJVOAD:
Vice President of Operations
Community FoodBank of New Jersey
31 Evans Terminal - Hillside NJ 07205
Direct: 908-242-3960 - Cell: 908-884-0769 - Fax: 908-355-2341
Main number: 908-355-3663
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org - Website: www.njfoodbank.org
If you have folks with such experience, this is one opportunity to help. I assume these shelters will be run by the Red Cross."
Claire and I are sitting it out here in Point Pleasant Beach with some family members; our part of town is not subject to mandatory evacuation. Suzanne is battening down the hatches at her home in Hightstown. We hope and pray all of you are warm and safe, and will remain so. Remember, we're all in this together, and God is with us most of all.