When churches’ un-trendiness benefits others

Published 7:28 am Saturday, February 3, 2018

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader

From New Mexico to Washington, from age 18 to those who have retired, volunteers remain in Orange helping homeowners in the recovery efforts.

For years the church has been labeled as non-trendy. Perhaps that’s a good thing – trends come and go quickly.

The work of rebuilding homes and lives after Hurricane Harvey is a long process. A long process that outlasts any trend in disaster relief donations and long past the initial flood of volunteerism.

Through many disaster situations, Texas Baptist Men (TBM) has led the initial relief efforts and hangs around long term for the rebuilding efforts. TBM started helping individuals and first responders the day after Harvey made landfall and TBM hasn’t left yet. To work with families and communities for extended time after a natural disaster, the organization created TBM Rebuild.

TBM Incident Management Team Director Bob Aumiller, with his wife, Karen, are currently in Orange, seeing first hand the devastation the storm left in its wake.

“It’s been an eye opening experience,” Bob said. “The amount of destruction and the workloads.”

Bob and Karen, of Washington, have volunteered on the disaster relief teams since 2008. Prior to this trip, they volunteered on the Feeding Team which feds 700-1,500 people two meals a day.

“Not everyone is back to normal,” Karen said. “People think the area has returned to normal.”

“The lengthy rebuilding of communities, homes, and lives is often where people feel the most abandoned and helpless,” Dwain Carter, director of TBM Rebuild, said. “This is a time to exhibit the love of Christ. We choose to share this love through our Relief and Rebuild efforts.”

Carter is currently reporting that 26 Rebuild projects have been completed in the Hurricane Harvey hit areas and they have 96 more projects in the greater Houston area including Orange and Rockport on the books.

“The number of completions and lives impacted is phenomenal. The number of remaining projects is great. If you would like to help, please go online to volunteer or give,” Carter said.

Once the initial compassion of gifts and volunteer hours has waned, TBM Rebuild remains to help people rebuild their homes and continue re-assembling their lives. Through TBM’s efforts, churches, adult teams, and student teams get to be a continual influence in the work and the lives of people impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

TBM is a religious disaster relief and humanitarian organization based in Dallas that responds to natural disasters in Texas, any other state, and any other country around the world. TBM was established in 1968 and has been a vital part of disaster relief efforts in Texas and other countries who invite them in for assistance.

While TBM leads the recovery efforts, they are assisted by AmeriCorps National Citizens Community Corps (NCCC) based in Colorado.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, residential, team-based program for young adults, age 18-24. Members develop leadership skills and strengthen communities by completing service projects and gaining life experience.

Teams, comprised of 8-10 members, complete multiple projects that address essential community needs throughout the United States. During the 10-month service term, members receive lodging, transportation, uniform and meals. Upon the completion of the program, members are eligible to receive the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award equal to the maximum Pell Grant amount: $5920, as of Oct. 1 2017.

Team Leader Yvette Navarro, of Grand Prairie, Texas, recently graduated with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Spanish.

“See the homeowners so grateful,” Yvette said as to why she enjoys what she is doing. “They are in high spirits during this time. We enjoy hearing their stories.”

Sean Lyons, 18, wanted to take a year of service to give back and have a clearer idea on employment and priorities before starting college.

“I have met the most spectacular people here,” Lyons said. “The most eye opening is still seeing trash and building materials on the side of the road and the trailers. We are putting the finishing touches on homes while people are living there.”

Ray Kinnamon, of Jefferson City, Missouri and member of Concord Baptist Church, has volunteered with TBM since his friend recruited him 15-20 years ago.

“To see how wide spread the damage is has been the hardest for me,” Ray said. “To see the damage, where do you start? You have to have a starting and a stopping point.”

For Delwood Dowd, also of Concord Baptist Church, this was his first trip on the team.

“The devastation is so wide spread,” Dowd said. “You can go down a street and some houses did not get flooded while others did.”