Hurricane response efforts continue

Information provided by staff from Brethren Disaster Ministries, Children’s Disaster Services, and Material Resources

Children setting up blocks in a tent-like structure
Children in North Fort Myers, Fla., playing with blocks with Children’s Disaster Services volunteers nearby. Photo by Kathy Fry-Miller.

Please pray… For the volunteer CDS teams who have served in Florida and all the children and families they have helped; for the Brethren Disaster Ministries work following Hurricane Ian in Florida and with Puerto Rico District following Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico; for the work of Material Resources and all of those who will benefit from their aid shipments.

Child pretends to take blood pressure of CDS volunteer
A child pretends to take the blood pressure of a Children’s Disaster Services volunteer in Orlando, Fla. Photo courtesy of CDS.

Material Resources shipments

The Church of the Brethren Material Resources program, with warehouses at the Brethren Service Center in New Windsor, Md., has made the following shipments.

In response to Hurricane Ian:

  • A shipment of blankets, school kits, and baby kits to Arcadia, Fla.
  • A shipment of hygiene kits, toothpaste, and cleanup buckets to Englewood, Fla.
  • A shipment of blankets and school kits to Orlando, Fla.
  • A shipment of cleanup buckets to Cape Coral, Fla.
  • A shipment of blankets, hygiene kits, toothpaste, and cleanup buckets to Naples, Fla.

In response to Hurricane Fiona:

  • A shipment of blankets, baby kits, school kits, hygiene kits, and toothpaste to Puerto Rico via Jacksonville, Fla.

Children’s Disaster Services work in Florida

Children’s Disaster Services (CDS) Team One returned home last week from Fort Myers, Fla., after completing a two-week deployment. The Orlando CDS team completed their service after nine days in the shelter. There is a CDS team presently working in North Fort Myers, Fla., at the Del Tura Shelter, in a former Publix building. The Hertz Arena and Estero Recreation Center Shelters were combined into this one location with approximately 560 people. The current team is seeing 25-30 children per day and is expected to return home on Nov. 2.

Thank you to these volunteers and to all who willingly serve the youngest disaster survivors by providing a calm, safe, caring, and reassuring place for them. Please keep them, all other responders, and especially hurricane survivors in your thoughts and prayers.

CDS staff began monitoring Hurricane Ian before it made landfall in southwest Florida on Sept. 28, just shy of a Category 5 storm. In addition to resulting in massive destruction, particularly in the Fort Meyers, Fort Meyers Beach, and Naples areas, the Florida death toll from the storm is still climbing, standing currently above 120, with several people still missing and thousands remaining displaced. There were an additional five deaths in North Carolina and one in South Carolina. The level of damage has impeded relief and response efforts as volunteers come to help. Due to the logistical challenges, CDS volunteers were unable to deploy right away. However, CDS partner Child Life Disaster Response (CLDR) had local volunteers who could reach the affected area and started providing services for children in the Hertz Arena shelter in Estero, Fla., on Monday, Oct. 3. They gave care to about 30 children per day while CDS worked with the Red Cross to deploy teams.

One CDS team of four left for Florida on Oct. 8 to investigate the situation and prepare the way for other volunteers. These team members have completed their service.  

Child on colorful play mat with adult volunteer nearby
A child plays with Children’s Disaster Services volunteer Paul Fry-Miller in North Fort Myers, Fla. Photo by Kathy Fry-Miller.

CDS continued to liaise with Red Cross. The initial team was joined by a CLDR volunteer and a second team of four. A third team is now serving in North Fort Myers. CDS associate director Lisa Crouch and Brethren Disaster Ministries director Jenn Dorsch-Messler recently made a quick trip to Florida to assess needs, provide encouragement, and communicate with partners.

CDS training

In related news, the CDS training that was scheduled for Oct. 28-29 in West Point, Neb., has been canceled. Information on spring 2023 training workshop locations and dates will be posted later this year at www.brethren.org/cds/training/dates.

Hurricane Fiona update from Puerto Rico

Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Fiona made landfall on Puerto Rico, there are still small areas with homes that do not have water and/or electricity. These “pockets” are in areas that are difficult to get to because of blocked roads or broken bridges or have power lines tangled up in trees that are hard for the electricity connection crews to reach.

Young woman handing bag to older woman under a bright blue sky
Distribution in Maricao, Puerto Rico, by Vega Baja youth following Hurricane Fiona. Courtesy of Brethren Disaster Ministries.

Small crews of Church of the Brethren members are doing their best to find and assist the families in these pockets. They have cleared roads, delivered water and meals (sometimes by four-wheelers), cut trees to free lines, and are arranging for assistance to be ferried across rivers. We are so grateful for these amazing faith-filled people who serve wherever, and as long as, they find a need. Brethren Disaster Ministries has been blessed to provide an Emergency Disaster Fund (EDF) grant to Puerto Rico District to help with these efforts.

The stories of blessings coming out of the hardship that Fiona brought to Puerto Rico are heartwarming. When church leaders purchased water from a few suppliers, they donated entire pallets to the cause or even refused payment. Several church members formed a “mini recovery team” to help clear roads of trees and boulders, and to free power lines from branches. Brethren have partnered with other denominations to bring relief to isolated areas. The Brethren youth are fully engaged in service as an expression of their faith. Many people are experiencing God’s love through these simple acts of love and compassion. The reports of tireless activities reach the Brethren Disaster Ministries staff almost daily.

To contribute to the hurricane response of Brethren Disaster Ministries and Children’s Disaster Services, do so online at  www.brethren.org/givecds, writing “hurricane response” in the notes box. Or send a check to Emergency Disaster Fund, 1451 Dundee Ave., Elgin, IL 60120, writing “hurricane response” in the memo line.


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