As the wildfires continue to burn throughout Texas, Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response (LSSDR) is working side-by-side with Lutheran churches and our nonprofit, faith-based, government and community agency partners to identify how we can best minister to the communities and survivors who have had their lives turned upside-down by these devastating wildfires. In particular, LSSDR is working in partnership with the agencies of the Central Texas Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), which is a collaboration of multiple organizations doing disaster work through all stages of disaster, including preparedness, emergency response, relief and long-term recovery. These agencies include well-known partners such as the American Red Cross, the Austin Disaster Relief Network, Catholic Charities, The Salvation Army, the Capital Area Food Bank and many others.
At this time, the wildfire disasters in Central Texas in particular are very much still an emergency event. The largest of the fires, the Bastrop Complex fire, has burned over 38,000 acres, destroyed over 1,300 homes and structures, and is still only 30% contained. Over 5,000 people have been displaced from their homes, many still with no news as to whether or not their homes made it through the fires. As such, we must be sure that our efforts do not get in the way of our public officials, emergency responders and law enforcement agents that are still very much actively involved in evacuating residents, fighting fires, and protecting property. It is unclear how many more days—or even weeks—it may take to completely extinguish this and other fires burning throughout the region.
All of us at LSSDR are humbled and in awe of the outpouring of support and offers of help we have received from throughout the Lutheran and greater community. As LSSDR works with its partner agencies and the Central Texas VOAD to better identify the immediate and long-term needs of wildfire survivors, we encourage anyone interested in donating money, goods, time or talent to please check our website (www.lsss.org/disaster-response) regularly for donation and volunteer opportunities. As we are still in the emergency response and immediate relief stage of these wildfires, we ask that you first consider donating funds so as to support LSSDR or other disaster response agencies in our efforts to serve the impacted communities. If you would like to donate goods, such as water, food, diapers or clothing, we have posted a list of trusted partners and verified donation drop off sites where you can bring items.
As the full scope of this disaster becomes more clear in the coming days, weeks and months, there will eventually be a great need for volunteer assistance with clean-up and rebuilding. As LSSDR organizes and/or becomes aware of volunteer opportunities, we will also post these on our website. As so many people have lost their homes and their entire neighborhoods, they will need our love, support and care most likely for many years to come.
Thank you for your continued prayers for the survivors and communities devastated by these wildfires. Thank you for your prayers for the first responders. Please continue to pray for all of those affected by and involved in fighting these fires. And please pray for rain.
(Editor’s note: Heather Gatlin, MPA, is vice president of Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response and president of the Central Texas VOAD.)