In Texas, Marshall Gonzales, Adventist Community Services Disaster Response (ACS DR) director for the Texas Conference, is managing the ACS DR, multi-agency warehouse in San Antonio, as per the agreement with the state. According to Gonzales, the operation is running smoothly. ACS plans call for the warehouse to close on November 17, 2017. While the flow of donations has slowed, many groups still receive products from the warehouse for the Houston area. Says W. Derrick Lea,* “Though our effort is ending in Texas, our services have begun at a warehouse in Jacksonville, Florida. FEMA has been working with us over the past month to open a warehouse for those affected in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”
An agreement for warehouse management was approved on October 31; ACS gained entry to the Jacksonville facility on the same day. According to Lea, South Central, which has an experienced team, has arrived on site and will lead local groups from both Florida and Southeastern Regional conferences. “While the local team will receive training from South Central, we also plan on brining other teams into the area to train and gain valuable experience,” Lea says. “We plan to schedule groups like the effort that took place in Houston.” Lea says that the effort will go on for at least six months.
The division also has activity in Northern California. Charlene Sargent, Pacific Union Conference coordinator says, “Most of the major California fires are now 95-100 percent contained and shelters have closed. Several Northern California Conference churches have served as shelters and distributed relief supplies.” Sargent reports that, generally, VOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster) are not identifying unmet needs for volunteers or material goods at this time.
“Thousands of individuals have registered to volunteer throughout the state,” adds Sargent. “Most needs are financial, however. … Thousands of homes have been destroyed, but hazardous material and debris removal will take some time.” Rebuilding is not expected to start in earnest until early next year.
Sargent spent most of the past two weeks in the emergency operations center in Sonoma County, where the most destruction occurred with the recent fires. “Lives were lost and structures were destroyed,” says Sargent. “ACS DR is revising and implementing their volunteer and donations management plan. Efforts are now transitioning to recovery.”
In addition to the work taking place on the ground, NAD ACS DR is also investigating long-term recovery options. “We have spoken with some of the leaders in this area such as the Mennonite, Presbyterian, and United Methodist teams to discuss how we might partner in this area,” Lea says. “Many of our universities, schools and churches have contacted us, asking how they might help in other ways outside of warehousing. This shows our people are interested in helping in some way. … Our job to figure out how this might look and we are working to develop ways we might work to assist those affected.”
* W. Derrick Lea is an associate director of Adventist Community Services, and ACS Disaster Response director for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.