Sadly, over 1,500 homes have been destroyed in the Central Texas wildfires alone. There has been loss of life, loss of loved ones. It seems that in our Austin office, everybody knows someone who knows someone who has lost a home in this disaster. We all feel the pain. Although many fires continue to burn and hundreds of firefighting agencies from across the country are working around the clock, experienced disaster response personnel know that this is still the very early stages of this particular event. Regardless, it is amazing to be part of the broader community that has quickly come together to provide help, healing and hope to those impacted by the disaster.
During the past week we have established or re-established partnerships with Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Disaster Response, LCMS World Relief/Human Care, Thrivent, Concordia University – Texas, all of the Texas based judicatories, numerous congregations, and hundreds if not now thousands of individual donors and local businesses.
Some of the early response items we’ve been a part of include:
- Providing emergency grants to Lutheran families and others identified by Lutheran congregations who have lost their homes due to the fires.
- Working with local Lutheran Churches in the area that are collecting in-kind donations for those affected. We help coordinate these efforts to get the needed items into the hands of the survivors.
- Beginning to activate resources for spiritual/emotional care for families and children, which will be an enormous and on-going need.
- We will continue to identify Lutheran and other families and work with emergency personnel to begin the process with relief and recovery stages of this ongoing and major disaster effort for the Lutheran and greater community.
It is too early to know what specific role we will play in the long term recovery (case management, volunteer coordination, rebuilding, etc) as we are just not there yet. What we do know is that we will be there for the long-haul on behalf of the community to help special needs and vulnerable populations (low income, elderly, disabled, etc), truly the least of these.
It’s easy during a time like this to overlook the traumatic effect a natural disaster has on young people close to the scene. Lutheran Social Services Disaster Response team is partnering with church congregations in Bastrop and Smithville that are holding a free day camp tomorrow for school age kids K-6th that aims to specifically address these issues. We hope and expect that tomorrow’s camp will be the first of many similar activities in the weeks and months ahead as the recovery process begins in earnest.