2017 Hurricane Responses

The 2017 hurricane season has brought devastating damage and flooding to areas in the United States and in the Atlantic/Caribbean. Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services ahave already responded and plan to support the impacted communities in the long road to recovery.

Ways to Help

Give to 2017 Hurricane Response

  • or Send a donation to
    Emergency Disaster Fund
    2017 Hurricane Response
    Church of the Brethren
    1451 Dundee Ave.
    Elgin, IL 60120
  • Build Gift of the Heart Kits – Clean up buckets and hygiene kits are urgently needed
  • Pray for all those impacted and those who are serving them
  • Plan a fundraiser
  • Register for the waiting list to volunteer

Many people want to help by sending material goods to those in need, but unless you have a local contact and have been asked to send specific items, overwhelming a disaster area with unsolicited and often unsuitable items can create secondary disasters. Cash donations to trusted organizations are always preferred over material donations as they give organizations the flexibility and resources needed to be the most effective.

It is not recommended to self-deploy to the disaster affected areas to help with clean up and recovery. Spontaneous volunteers can become a huge burden on the people and resources after a disaster and in most cases, such volunteers will be turned away by local law enforcement. BDM will be actively looking for partners in areas affected by the recent storms.

You can also contact National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (National VOAD) to register as a volunteer. Your information will be shared with organizations when they begin accepting volunteers.

Hurricane Irma and Maria in the Caribbean

As the second and fourth major hurricanes of 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria left a path of destruction in September across the islands of the Caribbean.

Puerto Rico bore the full brunt of Hurricane Marie’s category 4 wind, rain and storm surge, after experiencing Hurricane Irma’s affects a little over a week earlier. Marie caused widespread destruction, flooding and mudslides and knocked out the entire electrical grid.

Disaster response and recovery plans are being developed that include a major response to support Puerto Rico, agriculture support in Haiti and grants to support the Church World Service response in the Caribbean. Funds are already being sent for emergency relief efforts in Puerto Rico. The long-term response will likely include volunteer workcamps and home rebuilding.

Evacuation center art wall, Kissimmee, FL, 2017
Photo by Patty Henry

Evacuation center art wall

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma in the U.S.

Rice play with children following Hurricane Harvey, 2017
Photo by Patty Henry

Rice play with children following Hurricane Harvey.

Brethren Disaster Ministries monitored Hurricane Harvey as it made landfall in Texas and Hurricane Irma as it moved across the Atlantic and Caribbean and toward Florida. This was the first time that two hurricanes made landfall as Category 4 storms in the same year, even though both weakened once they moved over land.

Children’s Disaster Services is the first wave of the BDM U.S. hurricane response with teams in evacuation centers and shelters working in partnership with Red Cross and now in Disaster Recovery Centers in partnership with FEMA. By the end of September, more than 70 CDS volunteers have cared for well over 1,000 children in 18 locations. The response to support children and families in their time of crisis continues in Florida and Texas.

As flood waters recede, BDM staff are coordinating response efforts in the storm affected areas and planning with Church of the Brethren leaders, Church World Service and other church partners. We will identify ways to have BDM volunteers support clean up and rebuilding efforts in the future. At this phase of the disasters, the urgent need is for Gift of the Heart Clean-up Buckets and Hygiene Kits. (see "Ways to Help") For more information, contact 410-635-8797 or gthompson@brethren.org.

Responding to any disaster is a long-term effort that will take many years. BDM currently has active rebuild sites helping homeowners affected by historic flooding and storms in Missouri and by Hurricane Matthew in South Carolina in October 2016. Until recovery programs are established following the recent hurricanes, you are encouraged to serve these survivors by contacting your District Disaster Coordinator or the BDM office to schedule a trip (410-635-8730 or tgoodger@brethren.org).